Facebook has updated its Community Standards to address sexual content, and that changes are surprising. In fact, the general feeling that comes out of the change is that you cannot make any positive references to anything vaguely sexual, but you can make reference to most negative aspects of sexuality. For example, you can post about sexual exploitation, but cannot mention in a message that you are "looking for a good time tonight."
Obviously, there are a lot of problems with this move. The first glaring problem is that Facebook is a social networking platform, and therefore, a way for people to connect. Many dating apps, like Tinder, use Facebook as their primary connection point. Others allow you to link your Facebook to your profile to allow you to connect, or research, your potential partner. Once you are connected, it is not unusual to communicate with one another. I know, big surprise for a social network. As part of that communication, you might just want to discuss what types of things you're into, to see if you're a good match. That is no longer acceptable.
But that is just the beginning of the limitations. You can no longer post any content,
Using sexual hints such as mentioning sexual roles, sex positions, fetish scenarios, sexual preference/sexual partner preference, state of arousal, act of sexual intercourse or activity (sexual penetration or self-pleasuring), commonly sexualized areas of the body such as the breasts, groin, or buttocks, state of hygiene of genitalia or buttocks.
So, you cannot indicate that you are straight or gay, or that you are interested in someone who is dominant or submissive because that would indicate "sexual preference/sexual partner preference." However, the Facebook profile still includes an "interested in" category, with the options for male and female. However, by filling out an included aspect of the Facebook profile, you will be violating the Facebook Community Standards. This is going to have a major impact on the LGBT community, who have mostly found Facebook to be a good place to congregate to discuss topics of interest.
The second major issue is that by putting such draconian rules into place, Facebook is simply asking for trolls. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
For many users, life on Facebook might continue as it always has. But therein lies the problem: the new rules put a substantial portion of Facebook users in danger of violation. Fundamentally, that's not how platform moderation policies should work - with such broadly sweeping rules, online trolls can take advantage of reporting mechanisms to punish groups they don't like.
Combined with opaque and one-sided flagging and reporting systems, overly restrictive rules can incentivize abuse from bullies and other bad actors. It's not just individual trolls either: state actors have systematically abused Facebook's flagging process to censor political enemies. With these new rules, organizing that type of attack just became a lot easier. A few reports can drag a user into Facebook's labyrinthine enforcement regime, which can result in having a group page deactivated or even being banned from Facebook entirely. This process gives the user no meaningful opportunity to appeal a bad decision.
In other words, if someone wanted to punish or even close the profile of someone they disagree with, they could simply begin reporting them for suggestive content. Because of how bad Facebook's accountability system works, once the content or profile is flagged as abusing terms of service, reversing that decision can be incredibly difficult. In fact, one of our broadcast partners experienced exactly this, losing their Facebook page twice because of false claims made against them. In both cases, it was easier to start from scratch than it was to fight Facebook's governing body.
It is always a scary scenario when an organization as large as Facebook decides not only to censor speech but to make common and important human topics off limits. It is not good for anyone involved, including the company enforcing the censorship itself.