Turns out Facebook moderation sucks because its guidelines suck

Facebook has finally made its moderation guidelines officially available to the public and this is a fascinating look at an intricate set of rules that once censored the entire ACLU page on Facebook for a post about … wait for it. … censorship (The case in question referred to a partially nude statue in Kansas that would probably now fall into a permitted category called "paintings, sculptures and other art").

It is not the first time that the public sees the internal logic of Facebook in action (parts of the leaked documents were published to The Guardian last year), but this time, Facebook publishes its Community Guidelines to collect information from the users.

Facebook's moderation guidelines are notoriously self-destructive! In 2015, artist Micol Hebron posted a picture of a male nipple on Facebook, suggesting in jest that women evade Facebook's censorship of the female nipple by covering her nipples with the male nipple. (Since 2015, Facebook has allowed female nipples in a series of exceptions, including breastfeeding photos, protest photos and mastectomy photos).

Today's published guidelines (a series of inaccurate pronouncements punctuated by brief interludes of strangely specific breakdowns) can make you feel sorry for the moderator trying to apply them. Each time you add a strangely detailed exception, you can almost imagine the real case that led you to review the guidelines.

Nudity and sexual relationships receive incredibly specific definitions that include checklists and various combinations of genitals, anuses, female nipples and mouths. Exceptions may include "a sexual health context" or "an ad" (what about ads for pornography or sex work?). A photo with a "visible anus and / or full nude close-ups of the buttocks" is not allowed, with one exception: it is good to have "photoscopies in a public figure". Presumably genitals can not be photographed in a public figure, however?

Public figures (it is not totally clear about the guidelines that count as a public figure) do not receive the same treatment as private individuals. In the "Intimidation" section, the guidelines state that an image that "has been retouched with pictures to aim and degrade [a private individual]" is not allowed.

Mocking an individual deprived in this way is restricted. But, on the other hand, although the images that represent a "sexual act" are prohibited, it could fall within the permissible exception of "published in an attempt of humor or satire". Very clear!

"Hate Speech" is divided into three levels, Level 1 being the most extreme (from "violent discourse" to mocking the "concept" of hate crime, whatever that means), and the Level 3 be the least extreme. Level 3 hate speech is simply a call to segregate people according to one of Facebook's "protected categories": Facebook lists a long list that includes race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. "We also provide some protections for the immigration status," the guidelines say, but also, "We allow criticism of immigration policies and arguments to restrict those policies."

So where does a pro-Trump post fit the travel ban? in? Is it a criticism of an overly liberal immigration policy or a call to segregate people for religious reasons?

Facebook says that it wants to "improve and refine" these guidelines with the contribution of its users. In May, it will launch public events around the world, which it calls "Facebook Forums: Community Guidelines", to request comments.