Case on a veiled threat based on religious beliefs

UPDATED

MAY 19, 2021

On December 3, 2020, the Oversight Board selected a case referred by Facebook regarding a post in a group that appears to exist for Muslims in India. The post contains a statement about a sword being taken from its scabbard if people speak against the prophet. The post also references President Emmanuel Macron of France. The Facebook company deemed this post a veiled threat, and we took it down for violating our policy on violence and incitement, as laid out in the Facebook Community Standards.

Facebook referred this case to the board as an example of a challenging decision about statements that may incite violence even when not explicit. It also highlights an important tension we face when addressing religious speech that could be interpreted as a threat of violence.

Case decision

On February 12, 2021, the board overturned Facebook's decision on this case. Facebook acted to comply with the board’s decision, and this content has been reinstated.

Recommendations

On March 11, 2021, Facebook responded to the board’s recommendation for this case. We are committing to take action on the recommendation.

Recommendation 1 (committed to action)

Provide people with additional information regarding the scope and enforcement of restrictions on veiled threats. This would help people understand what content is allowed in this area. Facebook should make their enforcement criteria public. These should consider the intent and identity of the person, as well as their audience and the wider context.