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Facebook will treat journalists, activists as public figures to limit harassment and bullying

Embattled tech giant Facebook will consider activists and journalists “involuntary” public figures in order to limited harassment and bullying against them on the social media platform – but which activists and journalists will benefit is murky. 

Facebook’s “bullying and harassment policy differentiates between public figures and private individuals to enable freedom of expression and legitimate public discourse around those in the public eye,” according to Facebook Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis

“Public figures shouldn’t be subjected to degrading or sexualized attacks,” Davis added, noting that Facebook would now remove severe sexualized content, derogatory or sexualized photoshopped images and drawings, attacks through negative physical descriptions, and degrading content depicting individuals in the process of bodily functions. 

The company will alter the way it handles “involuntary” public figures including activists and journalists to offer them more protection going forward.  

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“We also recognize that becoming a public figure isn’t always a choice, and that this fame can increase the risk of bullying and harassment — particularly if the person comes from an underrepresented community, including women, people of color or the LGBTQ community. Consistent with the commitments made in our corporate human rights policy, we’ll now offer more protections for public figures like journalists and human rights defenders who have become famous involuntarily or because of their work,” Davis wrote. 

“These groups will now have protections from harmful content, for example content that ranks their physical looks, as other involuntary public figures do,” Davis continued. 

However, it is unclear if all journalists and activists will be treated equally or who decides which journalists and activists are treated as public figures. 

“The company declined to share a list of other involuntary public figures but said they are assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Reuters reported. 

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When asked who decides which activist and journalists are treated as public figures, a Facebook spokesperson provided Davis’ blog post to Fox News Digital, that does not explain if all journalists and activists will be handled equally.

“In updating our policies, we consulted a diverse set of global stakeholders including free speech advocates, human rights experts, women’s safety groups and our Women’s Safety Expert Advisors, cartoonists and satirists, female politicians and journalists, representatives of the LGBTIQ+ community, content creators and public figures. We will continue to work with experts and listen to members of our community to ensure our platforms remain safe,” Davis wrote. 

Facebook did not immediately respond when asked how it would define journalists and activists. 

Facebook has been under a microscope in recent weeks after whistleblower Frances Haugen blasted her former employer before Congress and on “60 Minutes.” Haugen released documents showing what she called proof the company puts profits before user well-being through its algorithms. 

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Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report. 

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