Facebook Censorship on Irrelevant and Inappropriate Comments

Mon 7 May 2012 15:00, Vitto Christaldi

Facebook Censorship on Irrelevant and Inappropriate Comments

They said Facebook is all about free speech. Well, it was; until recently Robert Scoble discovered that you are not entirely entitled to free speech on Facebook!

It was on Saturday morning. Like everyone else, Robert Scoble, an American tech-blogger, was relaxing and browsing around Facebook. Later, he found an interesting post that Max Woolf shared about PandoDaily. When Scoble was about to place his comment on the post, Facebook refused his comment, and instead sent an error message back saying: “This comment seems irrelevant or inappropriate and can’t be posted. To avoid having comments blocked, please make sure they contribute to the post in a positive way.” Yeah, you are now probably also wondering: to which extent may Facebook filter what users’ say?

Facebook%20censorship

But what did actually Scoble say? Did it contain “irrelevant or inappropriate” terms? No no, not at all! His comment on Woolf’s post was

I'm so glad I didn't start a media business. It's actually really tough to get new and interesting stories and to avoid falling into drama. People forget that Techcrunch was built step-by-step as a new publishing form was taking shape. PandoDaily doesn't have that advantage and, is, indeed, facing competition from social networks that is quite good indeed.

I no longer visit blogs. I watch Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, along with Hacker News, Techmeme, Quora. These are the new news sources.

Plus, Pando Daily actually doesn't have enough capital to compete head on with, say, D: All Things Digital or The Verge, both of which are expanding quickly and have ecosystems behind them.

After lots of shares, comments, and speculations on blogs and social media about what did actually go wrong, Facebook’s spokesperson finally gave an explanation about the mystery-censorship-action by Facebook:

To protect the millions of people who connect and share on Facebook every day, we have automated systems that work in the background to maintain a trusted environment and protect our users from bad actors who often use links to spread spam and malware. These systems are so effective that most people who use Facebook will never encounter spam. They’re not perfect, though, and in rare instances they make mistakes. This comment was mistakenly blocked as spammy, and we have already started to make adjustments to our classifier. We look forward to learning from rare cases such as these to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistake in the future.

For more information about our spam prevention systems, please see this blog post: https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=403200567130.

And here is Scoble’s personal analysis based on the response that Facebook gave:

Facebook PR responds.

I just talked with Facebook PR about my "comment censorship issue." They say what actually happened is my comment was classified as spam. He further said that this was a "false positive" because my comment was one that Facebook doesn't want to block.

Turns out that my comment was blocked by Facebook's spam classification filters and that it wasn't blocked for what the comment said, but rather because of something unique to that message. They are looking more into it and will let me know more later, after they figure out what triggered it. Their thesis is that my comment triggered it for a few reasons:

  1. I'm subscribed to @max.woolf https://www.facebook.com/max.woolf and am not a friend of his in the system. That means that the spam classification system treats comments more strictly than if we were friends.
  2. My comment included three @ links. That probably is what triggered the spam classification system.
  3. There might have been other things about the comment that triggered the spam system.

The PR official I talked with told me that the spam classification system has tons of algorithms that try to keep you from posting low-value comments, particularly to public accounts (er, people who have turned on subscriptions here on Facebook). 

I actually appreciate that Facebook is trying to do something about comment quality. I had to recently change my privacy settings to only allow friends of friends to comment on my posts because I was getting so many poor comments on my posts (when I did that the poor quality posts instantly stopped).

The PR person also said that a team is looking into why this message got a false positive, and will be adjusting the algorithms to let messages like these get through the system. 

Also, the error message made it sound like the message was blocked because of the content of the message, not because it looked spammy. They are looking into the wording of the error and will update that to make the error clearer as to what's going on and why the spam classification system got kicked in.

More as I learn more.

So apparently it was a mistake and what Facebook just tried to protect users from spam and malware. Fair enough. But still, I still remain skeptical about Facebook and this censorship action. Yes people, big brother is watching you, beware!


  • Comments (5)
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Comments (5)

 

  • I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

    Vr 20 jun 2014, 06:52


  • I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

    Vr 20 jun 2014, 06:52


  • I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

    Vr 20 jun 2014, 06:52


  • I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

    Vr 20 jun 2014, 06:52


  • I love what you got here, love what you saying and the way you say it.

    Ma 25 aug 2014, 01:12

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