How the Oversight Board Forced Meta to Reform ‘Facebook Jail’

How the Oversight Board Forced Meta to Reform ‘Facebook Jail’

Social media giant Meta has announced that it is reforming its penalty system in an effort to make it more difficult for users to be restricted or banned for minor infractions of its rules. Under the new system, which the company says is designed to be more effective at preventing repeat offenses, users will be given warnings and explanations as to why their content has been removed, rather than having their accounts immediately restricted.

In a blog post, Meta explained that account restrictions will only be applied to persistent violators, typically after the seventh violation, and after the user has been given sufficient warnings and explanations to help them understand why their content has been removed. The company also noted that it will continue to apply more severe penalties for “severe” rule violations.

Previously, users could be banned from posting on the platform for 30 days at a time, even for relatively minor infractions, which Meta now acknowledges was sometimes a mistake due to “missed context.” The company gave the example of someone jokingly telling a friend they would “kidnap” them, or posting a friend’s address in order to invite others to an event, which could have resulted in an unfair ban.

Under the new system, users may still be restricted from certain features, such as 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.

Meta’s decision to overhaul its penalty system was driven by feedback from its Oversight Board, which has criticized the company for not providing users with information about why their posts were removed. In a statement following Meta’s announcement, the board said the changes were “a welcome step in the right direction,” but that “room for improvement remains.”

The board also called on Meta to provide users with the opportunity to add context to their appeals, and for the information to be made available to its moderators. While the latest changes do not address “severe strikes,” which can have a significant impact on activists and journalists, the Oversight Board says it welcomes Meta’s efforts to improve its penalty system.

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