Facebook has announced a new set of community guidelines, that reaffirms the ban on homophobic and transphobic hate speech on the social network.

The changes were announced this week, as the company unveiled new rules to clarify what is and isn’t welcome on the website.

Users can now flag hate speech directly through the website’s reporting panel – which previously only had options for “harassment”.

The website has come under fire in the past for uneven enforcement of regulations, on occasion removing images of same-sex couples while allowing listed hate groups to promote themselves on Facebook.

The new guidelines state: “Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases.

“Organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook. As with all of our standards, we rely on our community to report this content to us.”

Addressing pages such as PinkNews, which regularly draws attention to listed hate groups, it clarified: “People can use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices. Such discussion can promote debate and greater understanding.

“Sometimes people share content containing someone else’s hate speech for the purpose of raising awareness or educating others about that hate speech.

“When this is the case, we expect people to clearly indicate their purpose, which helps us better understand why they shared that content.”

Monika Bickert, the company’s Head of Global Policy Management, said: “It’s a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community.

“For one thing, people from different backgrounds may have different ideas about what’s appropriate to share — a video posted as a joke by one person might be upsetting to someone else, but it may not violate our standards.

“This is particularly challenging for issues such as hate speech.

“Hate speech has always been banned on Facebook, and in our new Community Standards, we explain our efforts to keep our community free from this kind of abusive language.

“We understand that many countries have concerns about hate speech in their communities, so we regularly talk to governments, community members, academics and other experts from around the globe to ensure that we are in the best position possible to recognize and remove such speech from our community.

“We know that our policies won’t perfectly address every piece of content, especially where we have limited context, but we evaluate reported content seriously and do our best to get it right.”

However, parts of the new regualtions have attracted criticism from trans activists and the drag community, for reinforcing the use of ‘real names’ on the website.

The guidelines state: “People connect on Facebook using their authentic identities. When people stand behind their opinions and actions with their authentic name and reputation, our community is more accountable.

“If we discover that you have multiple personal profiles, we may ask you to close the additional profiles. We also remove any profiles that impersonate other people.”