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Low-wage Facebook contractor leaks secret censorship list

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 14:40 EDT
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Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, giving a presentation. Photo: AFP.
 
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A secret list curated by social network giant Facebook was published online recently after an employee for one of the company’s third-world contractors, upset at his poor working conditions and meager wage, decided to fight back.

The document reveals exactly what Facebook’s censorship brigade looks for on the social network, which boasts over 850 million users spanning the globe.

Referred to internally as the “bible,” the list prioritizes deletion of materials pertaining to Holocaust denial, graphic nudity, depictions of any sexual fetish, racial slurs and bullying — all of which are unsurprising — but a few of the other entries are raising eyebrows.

Namely, female nipples or even the impressions of nipples under clothing are unacceptable to Facebook censors, whereas male nipples are fine. Images of breast feeding, too, are forbidden if they show an exposed nipple. “Crushed heads” and mutilated limbs are also fine, so long as the person posting such images does not express delight and no internal organs are visible. The list specifically says that on this point, no exceptions would be made for news media.

Also verboten: images of bodily fluids, including ear wax and pus; dead animals; advocacy of violence; advocacy of eating disorders; racial jokes where “the humor is not evident”; and “any photoshopped images of people, whether negative, positive or neutral”; “pixelated or black-barred content showing nudity or sexual activity”; “digital/cartoon nudity”; and images of drunk or sleeping people with “things drawn on their faces.”

All that aside, images depicting marijuana use are fine, unless an individual appears to be growing, buying or selling the drug. “Art nudity” is okay, and so are videos of schoolyard fights — unless the video was posted with the intent to humiliate another user.

The list’s disclosure by gossip blog Gawker marks the first time that the public has been given a glimpse at the inner-workings of the planet’s largest social network.

Facebook has long been criticized by free speech activists for barring images of breast feeding and deleting accounts created by Palestinian resistance groups, but since it is a private company, Facebook is allowed to obstruct virtually any content it wishes.

The list also shines a light on Facebook’s darker underbelly: how it uses third-world laborers to police first-world content.

Amine Derkaoui, the 21-year-old Moroccan who leaked the document, claimed he was hired by a firm Facebook uses to outsource content policing, only to be paid $1 an hour for his efforts.

“They are just exploiting the third world,” he told Gawker.

Facebook’s media relations department did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook’s application for an initial public offering (IPO) on the U.S. stock markets was valued earlier this month at somewhere between $75 billion and $100 billion, making it the largest IPO request ever. Shares in the company are expected to go up for sale later this year. Facebook said it made over $3.71 billion in 2011, largely from advertising fees.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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