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Facebook reviews smut policy after slave site uprising

Deletion of kinky page provokes sort-of soul-search

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Facebook has announced it is actively reviewing its policy of a total ban on all content relating to sexual activities.

The review follows the deletion on 4 February of Collared Events page following a complaint from a site user. This deletion angered and mystified many members and supporters of Collared, which operates Slaves and Masters Club Nights and which identifies itself as a community non-profit organisation with a focus on safety and socialization. It used the Facebook page merely as a means to communicate.

There was no explicit imagery or sexual content of any kind and the page was set to "secret". The page strictly followed the Facebook Terms. Facebook initially cited its user condition (3.7) that: "You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence."

However, following extensive dialogue with senior staff at the company, including Richard Allan, Facebook's Head of Policy for Europe, Collared has apparently stirred Facebook into reviewing not just this ban but its entire policy. A wide ranging "internal dialogue" is now under way.

Simon, who runs Collared, told the Reg: "I feel that Facebook are in complete confusion on this issue. The problem is that their policy is inconsistent and whether a site survives or not depends on whether a site is able to lobby the right person in the company – and not offend the wrong one.

"In this case, we were picked off because a rival club wanted to poach our members".

At base, however, Simon believes that the issues go much deeper, possibly into philosophical territory. He went on: "Facebook have to decide whether they are 'a moral organisation' or are simply pragmatists, seeking to maximise their advertising.

"There is a huge disconnect, which Facebook needs to deal with, because this doesn’t just apply to kink, but to the entire sexuality spectrum. I have spoken to many other groups in the gay and transgender community who are seriously worried that they might be pulled at a moment’s notice: I’ve lost count of the number of cross-dress sites that have lost their pages, even where there is no sexual content whatsoever.

"No one knows whether they should invest huge amounts of time investing in building on Facebook. It is also, partly, a transatlantic issue, with Facebook’s US audience SO MUCH much more sensitive than the Europeans.

"Personally, I don’t care what Facebook decide, so long as they don’t make proclamations about being a platform for the world and then make inconsistent and hypocritical moral decisions.

"Because when Facebook move past a line based on simple content and toward intent and motivation, they are moving into church territory, which I don’t believe anyone wishes them to do."

Over the years, Facebook has often found itself called to task for its alleged inconsistent and discriminatory policies where "sex" is concerned, most notoriously for its heavy-handedness towards groups promoting breastfeeding.

Their Review Team allegedly told Richard Allan: "Any content that is primarily related to sexual activities is deemed to be in breach whether or not the there are any overtly explicit photos on the Facebook page."

This, according to Collared’s promoters, creates two serious issues for Facebook. First there is transparency: if this really is its policy, perhaps it should be stated in the Ts and Cs. Second is the question of consistency.

As regular users of Facebook will be well aware, the site is awash with content that someone somewhere is likely to find "sexual", from Playboy to "Jodie Foster’s thighs": so if this really is Facebook’s policy, it means that increasingly, Facebook Reviewers are to become arbiters of what is and what is not sexual. An interesting and probably thankless task.

We did ask Facebook for official comment on this debate - but have so far received no reply. ®

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