Meta is reforming its ‘Facebook jail’ after oversight board feedback

24 Feb 2023

Image: © prima91/

Facebook content violations will now involve more explanation of Meta policy and less severe actions to restrict offending accounts.

Meta is reforming its so-called ‘Facebook jail’ system by focusing more on helping people who violate its content policy to understand why their content has been removed rather than penalise them immediately.

Prompted by feedback from its oversight board, which holds Meta to account over content matters and policies, the company announced the updates to its Facebook penalty system yesterday (23 February) in a bid to make it “fairer and more effective”.

Meta-owned Facebook has long come under fire for its alleged inconsistent approach to content moderation. In 2018, a Channel 4 investigation revealed systemic failures regarding the removal of content flagged as inappropriate or recommended to be removed by users.

Following its latest updates to the ‘Facebook jail’ system, Meta hopes offending users will better understand why their content is considered inappropriate and minimise their chances of re-offending.

“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,” Meta wrote in a company blogpost.

While Meta said it will continue to apply account restrictions to persistent violators, typically beginning at the seventh violation, it will give them “sufficient warnings and explanations” first. They may also be restricted from posting in groups prior to more severe account restrictions.

For serious violations involving terrorism, child exploitation, human trafficking, suicide promotion and other related content, Meta said it will continue to apply “immediate consequences”, including account removal in severe cases.

‘Implications of overenforcement are real’

Nearly 80pc of Facebook users with a low number of strikes, Meta estimates, do not go on to violate its content policy in the next 60 days.

“This means that most people respond well to a warning and explanation since they don’t want to violate our policies,” Meta wrote.

“At the same time, some people are determined to post violating content regardless of our policies. Our analysis suggests applying more severe penalties at the seventh strike is a more effective way to give well-intentioned people the guidance they need while still removing bad actors.”

The new penalty system will start minor restrictions such as prevention from posting in groups for users with up to six strikes. Users with seven or more strikes will be temporarily restricted from accessing their accounts altogether, while 10 or more strikes will lead to 30-day bans.

“The implications of overenforcement are real – when people are unintentionally caught up in this system, they may find it hard to run their business, connect with their communities or express themselves,” Meta added.

The oversight board welcomed Meta’s latest updates to the ‘Facebook jail’ system, but cautioned that there is still room for improvement, such as in giving violating users to “explain the context of their post when appealing to Meta”.

“Today’s announcement focuses on less serious violations. Yet the board has consistently found that Meta also makes mistakes when it comes to identifying and enforcing more serious violations, which can severely impact journalists and activists,” the board wrote.

“That’s why the oversight board has asked for greater transparency on ‘severe strikes’ and will continue to do so.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic