In a sign of its growing importance as a news source, Facebook announced today that it will permit certain images and stories even if they violate the social network’s policies, as long as they are deemed newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest.
The decision is a mild reversal of Facebook’s longtime stance on objectionable content, perhaps best described as “take down first and ask later.” Last month, the company immediately removed an iconic photo of a 9-year-old girl fleeing napalm bombs during the Vietnam War, only to replace it after public outcry.
The new guidelines, which will be implemented “in the coming weeks” according to a company blog post, are vague. Facebook says it will revamp its screening process with “new tools and approaches to enforcement,” but admits that it is still exploring how best to do it.
“Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them,” according to the blog post.
As it changes up its screening process, Facebook also continues to grapple with allegations that it is biased toward the political left. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that some Facebook employees lobbied to take down Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s posts about banning Muslims from the U.S.
The employees argued that the posts violated the site’s rules on hate speech, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to remove them because he believed that censoring Trump would be “inappropriate,” according to the Journal.
In May, Facebook was criticized for suppressing politically conservative viewpoints in its “trending topics” section. The company denied the allegations, but later dismissed the editors who previously curated the section, and now relies exclusively on algorithms to determine trending content.