It’s now going to be harder to land in “Facebook jail.” Meta says it’s reforming its penalty system so that people are less likely to have their accounts restricted for less serious violations of the company’s rules.
“Under the new system, we will focus on helping people understand why we have removed their content, which is shown to be more effective at preventing re-offending, rather than so quickly restricting their ability to post,” Meta explains in a blog post. “We will still apply account restrictions to persistent violators, typically beginning at the seventh violation, after we’ve given sufficient warnings and explanations to help the person understand why we removed their content.”
Previously, users could land in “Facebook jail,” which could prevent them from posting on the platform for 30 days at a time, for relatively minor infractions. Meta says that it sometimes imposed these types of penalties mistakenly due to “missed context.” For example, someone who jokingly told a friend they would “kidnap” them, or posted a friend’s address in order to invite others to an event, may have been wrongly penalized. These punishments were not just unfair for “well-intentioned” users, but in some cases actually made it more difficult for the company to identify actual bad actors.
With the new system, users may still be restricted from certain features, like posting in groups, following a strike, but will still be able to post elsewhere on the service. Longer, thirty-day restrictions will be reserved for a user’s tenth strike, though the company may impose more restrictions for “severe” rule violations. Facebook users will be able to to view their past violations and details about account restrictions in the “Account Status” section of the app.
Meta notes that the overhaul comes as a result of feedback from the Oversight Board, which has repeatedly criticized Meta for not providing users with information about why their posts were removed. In a statement following Meta’s new policy, the board said the changes were “a welcome step in the right direction,” but that “room for improvement remains.”
The board notes that the latest changes don’t do anything to address “severe strikes,” which can have an outsize impact on activists and journalists, especially when the company makes a mistake. The Oversight Board also said that Meta should provide users the opportunity to add context to their appeals, and that the information should be available to its moderators.