In a move that should realistically shock no one at this point, Facebook recently updated the terms of service yet again to prevent the spread of sexualized content. The update includes a new portion for their sexual solicitation policy which includes a slew of questionable and vague changes.
The biggest issue with this move (other than the censorship of something as natural as human sexuality) is how many mostly innocent things will get shut down over this. Cosplay model shows a little too much during a shoot? There goes the page. One of those tag groups used “sexualized slang” in its name or description? Shut down. Will “using sexualized hints such as mentioning… commonly sexualized areas of the body such as the breasts, groin, or buttocks” in any fashion result in a ban? There’s also the private and secret groups on Facebook for these things that will be getting the ax as well, despite being set up out and away from the general public eye.
The move comes shortly after the popular blogging website Tumblr made a similar decision to remove all sexualized content. Tumblr’s reason was the temporary removal of their app from the app store due to several users that had posted child pornography on the site. Rather than dealing with just the users themselves, Tumblr decided to take a blanket-blame approach and simply remove everything; must to the dismay of a sizable portion of their user base.
Though stated as a joke several years ago when the service launched, Pornhub has again stepped up to the plate to offer a home for the users interested in sure content, and even offers monetization options on top of it all! Pornhub announced on Twitter shortly after the move by Tumblr that both curators and content creators would be welcome with open and unrestricted arms on their platform.
With Facebook joining this decision despite having no such issues themselves in recent history it seems like little more than the revival of Puritan thinking. Once again, the social media platforms we frequent daily are deciding for us what is an is not appropriate content. This is a decision that shouldn’t be left in the hands of a small handful of companies, but rather in the hands of the users. While I can understand their desire to separate from such content (considering the signup age for Facebook is still only 13) there’s a reason secret groups exist.
They’ve also been unclear as to whether these restrictions will extend to their messenger app. You and your partner could be using messenger (the app that they beg you to use constantly) and make a sly little comment about the friskier plans you have for the evening and whoop! 30-day ban. While the move itself should be considered striking, the lack of transparency with it is equally questionable.
With other platforms taking steps in the opposite direction in the name of freedom of expression for their users, maybe the time for users themselves to branch out has finally come. This isn’t the first time the tech giants have made the executive decision on what you’re allowed to see, but perhaps we can make it the last.