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Meta is updating its approach to platform penalties, in line with recommendations from its independent Oversight Board, which will put more focus on explaining why content has been removed, as opposed to arbitrary suspensions.

As explained by Meta:

Under the new system, we will focus on helping people understand why we have removed their content, which is shown to be more effective at preventing re-offending, rather than so quickly restricting their ability to post. We will still apply account restrictions to persistent violators, typically beginning at the seventh violation, after we’ve given sufficient warnings and explanations to help the person understand why we removed their content.

The Oversight Board has consistently criticized Meta’s lack of transparency in its enforcement decisions, and this new update aims to align with that push, which Meta believes will lead to better long-term outcomes, and less angst from users.

The vast majority of people on our apps are well-intentioned. Historically, some of those people have ended up in ‘Facebook jail’ without understanding what they did wrong or whether they were impacted by a content enforcement mistake. Our analysis has found that nearly 80% of users with a low number of strikes do not go on to violate our policies again in the next 60 days.

The explanation makes a lot of sense – if people don’t know what rule they’ve broken, they’ll probably break it again, whereas if you provide more explanatory notes, and give users a chance to understand the full context, they can at least apply their own logic and reasoning to each case.

That doesn’t mean that people will agree, and there’ll still be people who’ll cry unjust treatment from the Facebook overlords. But if the explanation is clearer, and there’s direct reasoning, it’ll be harder for users to accuse the platform of bias or misinterpretation.

Unless they have been misinterpreted, in which case they can appeal.

Meta says that more extreme violations will still see harsh penalties.

For more serious violations: posting content that includes terrorism, child exploitation, human trafficking, suicide promotion, sexual exploitation, the sale of non-medical drugs or the promotion of dangerous individuals and organizations, we will continue to apply immediate consequences, including account removal in severe cases.

Meta also notes that it’s confident that this update will not have any negative impacts in regards to more violative content making its way into its systems, as its removal actions remain the same, just the penalties are changing.

The Oversight Board has welcomed the update, saying that it’s a ‘step in the right direction for Meta’.

It does seem like a more logical approach, but the challenge will be in providing better explanations, and keeping users better informed of any penalties. If Meta can get it right, this could go a long way in not only enforcing but educating users as well, which could be a significant step.