Facebook Bans Violent Threats — Except Against Certain People

July 9th, 2019 2:54 PM

Facebook’s policy for posting content that called for violence used to be straightforward: don’t do it. Now, there are exceptions. 

According to an updated version of Facebook’s Community Standards, calls for “high-severity violence” may not be posted, unless the victim in question is “an organization or individual covered in the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.” In addition, threats “that lead to serious injury” may not be posted only in the case of private individuals or minor public figures. 

The rules say nothing about banning threats that would lead to serious injury against major public figures. A user could threaten to break a world leader’s leg, throw a brick at his or her face, or wish for the politician to break his back, and receive no repercussions from Facebook. 

119 Antifa groups are currently active on Facebook, some advocating for milkshakes and bricks to be thrown at the people they disagree with. Facebook has no issue with their presence, but instead has tailored the violence standard in order to allow these groups to be the exception to the rule. When SmashRacismDC, a Washington D.C. Antifa group, posted a threat aimed at President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “This is a message to Ted Cruz, Bret Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and the rest of the racist, sexist, transphobic, and homophobic right-wing scum: You are not safe. We will find you. We will expose you. We will take from you the peace you have taken from so many others.” By Facebook’s new rules, they did nothing wrong. 

A more troubling exception to the rule could lead to fatalities. Calls for “high severity violence” against someone in the Dangerous Individuals policy are also allowed. One example of “high severity violence” given by Facebook is “death.” If that person were in the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, Facebook users could threaten to kill that person and be left alone. 

So far, six individuals are marked in the Dangerous Individuals category: Alex Jones, Laura Loomer, Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Louis Farrakhan. Theoretically, users could post content threatening to kill these individuals, and nothing would be done by the company. 

The Media Research Center reached out to Facebook, and received no comment on this issue. 

The policy states, in full: 

Do not post: Threats that could lead to death (and other forms of high-severity violence) of any target(s) where threat is defined as any of the following: Statements of intent to commit high-severity violence; or Calls for high-severity violence (unless the target is an organization or individual covered in the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, or is described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offenses, wherein criminal/predator status has been established by media reports, market knowledge of news event, etc.)