No, Facebook’s updated sex policy doesn’t prohibit discussing your sexual orientation

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A recent update to Facebook’s Community Guidelines worried some users that the company was placing strict new limits on discussing sex and sexual orientation — but Facebook says users have little reason to worry.

In October, the company added a new section to its guidelines that covers “Sexual Solicitation.” In it, the company writes that people cannot post content that “engages in explicit sexual solicitation,” which could mean “following, offering, or asking for: sex or sexual partners; sex chat or conversations; nude images,” or “content that offers or asks for other adult activities such as: commercial pornography; partners who share fetish or sexual interests.” It also bans any content that “engages in implicit sexual solicitation” that could involve offering or asking for things like erotic images, “vague suggestive statements,” “sexualized slang,” and people’s sexual preferences. This applies to all Groups, Pages, and Messenger chats, Facebook tells The Verge.

Understandably, people who use Facebook to date and solicit meetups are worried about that practice being disrupted. (Facebook itself acknowledged that people use the site for dating, and that’s partially why it first launched Facebook Dating earlier this year.) Others worry that the guidelines are so general, it could prohibit people from talking about their sexuality at all, like in queer- or gay-friendly groups.

In a statement to The Verge, a Facebook spokesperson said the new section makes the differences between exploitation and solicitation clearer:

This change was prompted, in large part, by conversations with our content reviewers, who told us that the sexual exploitation policy did not adequately distinguish between exploitation (e.g. “My ex was a slut. Look at the photos she sent me.”) and solicitation (e.g. “Looking for swingers. Friday at 8 PM, [name of bar]. Wear pink.”), leading to confusion among reviewers, as well as the perception that we treat sexual exploitation and solicitation the same.

Both of those statements would violate the new policy.

The company also says people should feel free to talk about their orientation without fear of their content being deleted. What’s key to remember about this policy, a Facebook spokesperson tells The Verge, is that Groups and Pages should be spared from censorship, so long as there aren’t narcs in the group. Content needs to be reported before it’s taken down or reviewed, a spokesperson says. If you’re in Messenger and chatting with someone who wants to talk about sex, they likely wouldn’t report your message, and Facebook wouldn’t remove it. So yes, these sex-related Groups, Pages, and conversations could be at risk of takedowns, but only if someone is watching and reporting.

Moderators are more concerned with whether the post advertises for a sexual partner or offers to engage in a sexual act. Simply saying, “I’m gay,” doesn’t count as soliciting sex. But if someone says, “I’m a straight man looking for a beautiful girl to lick. Call me,” that would count as solicitation and be subject to a takedown.