Facebook has a new set of Community Guidelines, and they're bad news for anyone who would like to even vaguely mention sex or anything related to it. The new guidelines profess to be targeting 'sexual solicitation', but the implications are far wider reaching than that.
Tumblr has announced that its liberal attitude to what content is shared will be curtailed. From 17 December 2018, adult content - defined as "photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts" will be banned from the site with existing content to be reverted to a private setting that makes it viewable only by the poster and not the rest of the world.
Less than a week after Tumblr decided it would ban adult content, Facebook has followed up with something similar. While Facebook has never allowed the kind of explicit porn that Tumblr did, the new guidelines prohibit even mentioning sex acts, sexual preference and a myriad of other sex-related things.
The guidelines take aim at anything that "facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults. We also restrict sexually explicit language that may lead to solicitation."
Like many websites post-SESTA, the new rules prohibit using Facebook for numerous kinds of sex work, including recruiting for "pornographic activities" including strip club shows and even "erotic dances".
However it keeps going into even more hazy minutiae, forbidding things like "vague suggestive statements, such as “looking for a good time tonight”" or "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."
While these new rules are clearly over-the-top no matter who's reading them, they're particularly troubling for some sections of the population. With the rules explicitly forbidding talk of 'sexual preference', does that mean that LGBTQIA+ people won't be able to discuss their experiences on Facebook? Will 'coming out' posts be seen as a type of solicitation?
Facebook has become an incredibly influential platform. News can travel like wildfire over social media as the human tendency to gossip is amplified through the megaphone of thousands of connections linked to thousands more people. In order to ensure that content moderation issues are dealt with fairly, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that a new group will be formed outside the company to deal with these challenges.
All of this comes under the caveat that Facebook still allows posts "to discuss and draw attention to sexual violence and exploitation," but if sexual violence can safely be talked about on this platform, why is there no space for discussion of positive sexual encounters that happen between two consenting adults?
It's also unclear how these guidelines will work alongside Facebook's upcoming dating platform — seeing as online dating is basically one big platform for 'solicitation'.
Sex is a natural part of life, whether it's within a committed relationship, a casual encounter or an arrangement between a sex worker and their client. However Facebook seems to want to squash it entirely from their walled garden. It'll be interesting to see how stringently these new rules will be enforced, but maybe it's time to just find a Facebook alternative for good.