Meta's Oversight Board says Facebook needs to change its doxing rules

Back in April 2021, Facebook (now Meta) asked its independent Oversight Board to weigh in on the matter of sharing users' private residence information on Facebook and Instagram. The Oversight Board has since released its thoughts on the matter, stating that, among other things, Facebook should stop making exceptions for posts that share home addresses or photos of private residences.

Facebook's current Privacy Violations policy leaves some wiggle room for posts that share someone's private information, assuming the details were previously made available to the public "through news coverage, court filings, press releases, or other sources."

Similarly, Meta's content reviewers have been told that if someone's private information has been shared by five or more news outlets, it should be considered public information. One example provided by the Oversight Board is that if someone's address meets Facebook's criteria for being "publicly available," photos that identify that person with their address would be considered permissible.

It's important to note that, currently, these are suggestions provided for Meta and Facebook, not confirmed changes. While it's possible that we'll see some (or all) of these recommendations implemented at some point in the future, it's not guaranteed.

Meta's recommendations detailed

Removing the exception for "publicly available" private information is the Oversight Board's primary recommendation, but other changes are suggested, as well. The Board believes Facebook should maintain consistency with its "newsworthiness" exception by creating rules for its content reviewers that ensure they know when to escalate content that may violate the platform's community standards, but that may also still qualify for the "newsworthiness" exception.

Giving users a way to quickly (and effectively) report posts that share their private information and request its removal is also being suggested, along with the recommendation that Facebook explains both its Community Standards and Privacy Violations policies more clearly as they apply to sharing private information.

The Oversight Board does suggest additional exceptions for sharing private info. Assuming these exceptions are implemented, users would be allowed to share photos of a private residence if the property is the focus of a story, if it is the publicly-owned official residence of a political figure as a means of protest organization, or if it's the user's own private residence.

Beyond that, the Oversight Board also suggests that Facebook bolster its enforcement policies by allowing users to add context to their claims, and create a contact channel specifically for victims of doxing that's accessible for everyone regardless of whether or not they use the platform itself.