Facebook Doing Retroactive Enforcement of New Community Standards

LOS ANGELES—Seven years ago a header was posted on a client Facebook page. That header featured sexy black legal teens. There was no nudity, no lingerie; the only questionable part of the image was the name. When I say questionable, I mean questionable based on today’s standards. Seven years ago it was clearly not an issue. I was an admin of the page (which I no longer admin). Today my account was slapped with a three-day suspension for posting because this image from seven years ago was flagged as a violation of their community standards. Why is this important? This is important because Facebook is holding you accountable for things posted in the past to current community standards.

Facebook community standards and Terms of Service have changed dramatically over the years, and most of the time they do not inform people of the changes. Let's look at today’s community standards on adult content vs. 2011.

Here are the community standards on sexual content currently:


Here is what it was in 2011 (screenshot taken from the way back machine):


As you can see, the rules in 2011 were quite vague. They begged the question, what is “questionable” content? Much like the definition of obscenity, their judgment was based on “you know if when you see it.”

Something you shared on Facebook five years ago could have been completely within the terms of service five years ago, but as Facebook gets more conservative and their TOS and community guidelines change to reflect that, they are making that judgment retroactively apply instead of saying that the updates only affect posts as of the moment they are implemented.

I saw this happen when Facebook made promoting the sale of marijuana in legal states a violation. It went from being OK to post and share and advertise to not OK overnight. Thousands of people lost their dispensary pages. One of my ad accounts was shut down permanently because it violated their rules on Wednesday, though on Tuesday before the change, it was fine. In trying to recover the ad account, they refuse to reactivate it because it violated their rules and they won’t take into consideration that the only violation was because of a change on their side and not because of anything we were doing. The same ad had been approved, and running, for months. 

The marijuana, the seven-year-old photo, demonstrates how intractable Facebook is becoming. Typically, I advise people to err on the side of caution. Until recently, I told people to only share PG-13 images. Now, I say only share PG to G images. If you are an adult site, you may only want to share G images in case Mark Zuckerberg decides that his life is better served as a tight ass and bans anything that shows skin. Unfortunately, Facebook does not give you any warning or time to “clean up” your posts to reflect the new rules. They drop judgment without room for defense, reason, or logic. They do not care if you make your living based off your Facebook page. They do not care if you have half a million followers. They do not care.

But how does this really affect you?

*You could get your account suspended for something you shared years ago.
*You could get your account suspended for being an admin of a page that shared something that is no longer acceptable.
*If they change the rules today, you could get your account suspended for following the rules yesterday. 

New Rules of Engagement:

*Be careful with what you share. Just because you are getting away with it now, does not mean that you will continue to get away with it in the future.
*Err on the side of conservative. If your grandparents or kids can’t look at it, don’t post it.
*Be careful when being an admin of a page that you don’t have full control over. Other people’s actions can jeopardize your account.
*Text matters. Even if your photos are OK, if your text is pushing the limits, that can get you flagged.
*Remember: You don’t own your Facebook page or profile, Facebook does. This means that not matter how infuriating it is, they can suspend or shut down your page or account at any time without recourse.

As many people are fleeing the network due to the data breaches, there are many people in adult who are question whether it is time to turn our back on the network, especially as Zuck contemplates making Facebook a paid service. There are other great networks like Twitter and Reddit that are ok with adult content, and typically drive significantly more traffic than Facebook. 

If you would like to discuss alternatives to Facebook, reach out to me at 7veils.com or on Twitter at @7_Veils.