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Facebook Slammed for New Restrictions on Sexual Content

Facebook

But the social media titan asserts the guidelines don't ban mention of sexual orientation, as some outlets have reported.

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Facebook is getting some heat for recently updated content guidelines that ban "sexual solicitation," with some observers saying they prohibit mention of sexual orientation - but Facebook officials say that's not the case.

The guidelines, revised in October but just now getting substantial media attention, ban discussion of "sexual preference/sexual partner preference" along with "vague suggestive statements, such as 'looking for a good time tonight,'" "sexualized slang," sexually explicit drawings or photographs, and several other types of content.

Some users "worry that the guidelines are so general, [they] could prohibit people from talking about their sexuality at all, like in queer- or gay-friendly groups," tech news site The Verge reports. But a Facebook spokesperson told the site that's not so.

"The company ... says people should feel free to talk about their orientation without fear of their content being deleted," according to The Verge. Facebook asserts that the ban is on posts that directly seek sexual partners.

"Simply saying, 'I'm gay,' doesn't count as soliciting sex. But if someone says, 'I'm a straight man looking for a beautiful girl to lick. Call me,' that would count as solicitation and be subject to a takedown," The Verge reports.

Facebook also told The Verge that posts on groups and pages devoted to sexual topics would be subject to deletion only if a member reported them, which is unlikely. Also, "if you're in Messenger [a chat application] and chatting with someone who wants to talk about sex, they likely wouldn't report your message, and Facebook wouldn't remove it," The Verge notes.

A Facebook spokesperson told Gay Star News, which likewise reported on the new guidelines, that discussion of "sexual preference" wasn't banned, even though the guidelines state that it is - perhaps reflecting confusion over the term. "Sexual preference" was used in decades past to describe homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality, but it has been largely superseded by "sexual orientation," which makes clear that sexuality is not a choice. "Preference" could refer to more specific characteristics desired in a sexual partner.

At any rate, the guidelines drew critiques from many social media users, especially given that Tumblr recently banned certain types of sexual content. Some were also concerned about the effect on sex workers. A sample of tweets:

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.