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Facebook caves on censorship, will allow more NSFW news content

How does Facebook decide what is newsworthy? With almost impenetrable content policies in place, the social network is not — and has never claimed to be — an open platform built on the tenets of free speech and expression.

In the past, if you published content in violation of the company’s Community Standards you paid the price, by having the post removed and, worse still, your account suspended. However, that could all be about to change following an increase in pressure from Facebook’s community of users.

On Friday, the company announced it will start allowing more “newsworthy” content on to its service even if those items break the rules. Facebook claims it will work with its community and partners to decide what is “significant” or “important” to public interest. The changes will be implemented using new tools and approaches to enforcement.

“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,” said Facebook execs Joel Kaplan and Justin Osofsky in a blog post.

Related: Facebook sets precedent by indefinitely shutting down ads for an entire country

Over the past year, Facebook has repeatedly been forced to reinstate content it had initially removed due to its so-called sensitive nature. From fatal shootings captured on Facebook Live videos to historically significant photos containing nudity, the type of graphic material being uploaded to the site clearly requires an intricate appraisal process.

Until now, Facebook has increasingly relied on machine-learning algorithms to serve up relevant news based on its users’ interests. The company’s system has faced criticism over its inability to separate the real news from the fake. Consequently, it seems Facebook is now reaching out to real people to help it to grasp what is best for its community. The company said it will be working closely with experts, including journalists, photographers, law enforcement, and safety advocates to improve the type of content it allows. We reached out to Facebook for a comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Social media is already the primary source for news for much of the American public. It’s likely the number of people discovering and debating news through sites such as Facebook and Twitter has only increased during this election season. Yet the political content being published on the platform has reportedly caused internal divisions between its staff and management. According to a report published earlier on Friday, Facebook employees had argued certain posts by presidential candidate Donald Trump should be removed due to their violation of the site’s hate speech policy.

It is now clear that these debates, both internal and external, are shaping the type of content you will see on the world’s biggest social network. And it may not always be to your liking.