Facebook’s Oversight Board accepted the company’s request for an “advisory opinion” on the “sharing of private residential information.”
The platform asked its Oversight Board to review Facebook’s policy on posting private information that identifies where someone lives. Paraphrasing Facebook’s request, the Oversight Board explained, “this is a difficult question because residential addresses can be relevant to journalism and civic activism.” However, according to the Oversight Board’s announcement, the request acknowledged that “‘exposing this information without consent can create a risk to residents’ safety and infringe on an individual’s privacy.’”
Facebook asked the Board’s opinion on “what should render private information ‘publicly available.’” The Facebook Transparency Center offered personal information or imagery found in “news media, government records, or the dark web,” as an example. Facebook also questioned whether sources should be “excluded when they are not easily accessible or trustworthy.’”
The Oversight Board noted that residential information “can be relevant to journalism,” as it was in the case of the New York Post article. However, the Oversight Board, acknowledged that doxing, or the release of private residential information, could cause harm “such as swatting … and being targeted for harassment or stalking.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson experienced such harassment in 2018. A mob of Antifa protestors descended on his Washington, D.C. area home to threaten him and his family with violence. Carlson alleged, in July 2020, that The New York Times planned to release his address again. He recounted:
“Two years ago, a left-wing journalist publicized our home address in Washington, a group of screaming Antifa lunatics showed up while I was at work. They vandalized our home. They threaten my wife. She called 911 while hiding in the closet. A few weeks later, they showed up again at our house. For the next year, they sent letters to our home threatening to kill us. We tried to ignore it. It felt cowardly to sell our home and leave. We raised our kids there in the neighborhood and we loved it. But in the end, that’s what we did. We have four children. It just wasn’t worth it.”
Facebook declined MRC Free Speech America’s request for comment.
Newsbusters News Analyst, Nicholas Fondacaro contributed to this blog.