By Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management, and Chris Sonderby, Deputy General Counsel

Every day, people around the world use Facebook to connect with family and friends, share information and express themselves. The conversations that happen here mirror the diversity of the more than one billion people who use Facebook, with people discussing everything from pets to politics. Our goal is to give people a place to share and connect freely and openly, in a safe and secure environment.

We have a set of Community Standards that are designed to help people understand what is acceptable to share on Facebook. These standards are designed to create an environment where people feel motivated and empowered to treat each other with empathy and respect.

Today we are providing more detail and clarity on what is and is not allowed. For example, what exactly do we mean by nudity, or what do we mean by hate speech? While our policies and standards themselves are not changing, we have heard from people that it would be helpful to provide more clarity and examples, so we are doing so with today’s update.

There are also times when we may have to remove or restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our Community Standards. We report the number of government requests to restrict content for contravening local law in our Global Government Requests Report, which we are also releasing today. We challenge requests that appear to be unreasonable or overbroad. And if a country requests that we remove content because it is illegal in that country, we will not necessarily remove it from Facebook entirely, but may restrict access to it in the country where it is illegal.

Billions of pieces of content are shared on Facebook every day. We hope these two updates help provide more clarity about the standards we have, whether they are our own Community Standards or those imposed by different laws around the world.

More Detailed Community Standards

The updated Community Standards are broken into four sections:

  • Helping to keep you safe
  • Encouraging respectful behavior
  • Keeping your account and personal information secure
  • Protecting your intellectual property

In particular, we’ve provided more guidance on policies related to self-injury, dangerous organizations, bullying and harassment, criminal activity, sexual violence and exploitation, nudity, hate speech, and violence and graphic content. While some of this guidance is new, it is consistent with how we’ve applied our standards in the past.

It’s a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community. For one thing, people from different backgrounds may have different ideas about what’s appropriate to share — a video posted as a joke by one person might be upsetting to someone else, but it may not violate our standards.

This is particularly challenging for issues such as hate speech. Hate speech has always been banned on Facebook, and in our new Community Standards, we explain our efforts to keep our community free from this kind of abusive language. We understand that many countries have concerns about hate speech in their communities, so we regularly talk to governments, community members, academics and other experts from around the globe to ensure that we are in the best position possible to recognize and remove such speech from our community. We know that our policies won’t perfectly address every piece of content, especially where we have limited context, but we evaluate reported content seriously and do our best to get it right.

If people believe Pages, profiles or individual pieces of content violate our Community Standards, they can report it to us by clicking the “Report” link at the top, right-hand corner. Our reviewers look to the person reporting the content for information about why they think the content violates our standards. People can also unfollow, block or hide content and people they don’t want to see, or reach out to people who post things that they don’t like or disagree with.

While the Community Standards outline Facebook’s expectations when it comes to what content is or is not acceptable in our community, countries have local laws that prohibit some forms of content. In some countries, for example, it is against the law to share content regarded as being blasphemous. While blasphemy is not a violation of the Community Standards, we will still evaluate the reported content and restrict it in that country if we conclude it violates local law.

Countries contact us to let us know when content may be in violation of local laws and we compile these requests into a public report called the Global Government Requests Report.

Global Government Requests Report

The Global Government Requests Report, which covers the second half of 2014, includes information about the government requests we received for content removal and account data as well as national security requests under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.

Overall, we continue to see an increase in government requests for data and content restrictions. The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 11% over the previous half, to 9,707 pieces of content restricted, up from 8,774. We saw a rise in content restriction requests from countries like Turkey and Russia, and declines in places like Pakistan.

The number of government requests for account data remained relatively flat, with a slight increase to 35,051 from 34,946. There was an increase in data requests from certain governments such as India, and decline in requests from countries such as the United States and Germany.

We publish this information because we want people to know the extent and nature of the requests we receive from governments and the policies we have in place to process them.

Moving forward, we will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected.