Facebook “misplaced” guidance on an important exemption to its rules on dangerous individuals and organisations for three years, the company’s oversight board has revealed.
The board, which was created to rule on controversial content decisions, said it had overturned Facebook’s original decision to remove an Instagram post encouraging people to talk about the solitary confinement of Abdullah Ocalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
It said the post should never have been removed, but added that Facebook had discovered a relevant piece of its internal rules had “inadvertently not transferred” to a new review system in 2018.
This guidance makes an exemption to the social media platform’s rules, which prohibit support or praise of individuals or organisations it deems dangerous, to allow discussion on the conditions of confinement.
The revelation will come as a major setback to Facebook, which is already facing scrutiny over the way it deals with contentious matters.
The oversight board said it was “concerned” that Facebook had lost an important policy exemption and warned it could have led to other posts being wrongly taken down.
It said the guidance, which was not shared with Facebook’s policy team, was developed in 2017 partly in response to concerns about the conditions of Ocalan’s imprisonment.
The board said Facebook was conducting a review of how it failed to transfer the guidance but said it was not “technically feasible” to determine how many pieces of content were taken down while the guidance was not available.