A bug in Facebook’s content moderation system has led to a number of legitimate posts about the coronavirus – among other content – being marked as spam and unable to be shared.
Since March 17, users posting about the virus were told by Facebook that they had “go[ne] against our Community Standards,” meaning that their post was only visible to themselves. The bug affected a number of users and a range of publications, including the Times of Israel, Politico, The Atlantic, and the Sydney Morning Herald.
It was hypothesised by Facebook’s former security chief Alex Stamos that the error was caused by “less human oversight.” Facebook recently told members of its content moderation team to work from home. However, Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen clarified that the cause was “a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce.”
Later, Rosen followed up by tweeting that Facebook had “restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics – not just those related to COVID-19. This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites, but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts too.” However, it appears that the bug is still prominent. At the time of writing, “#FacebookCensorship” is trending in the United Kingdom, with many users complaining that they are, or were, unable to share legitimate content.
The social media giant will be moderating coronavirus content on its own platform as well as on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Recently, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube announced they were coordinating to fight misinformation and disinformation (such as the conspiracy theory that it’s caused by 5G) as well as promoting authoritative sources, such as those from the National Health Service in the UK.