Facebook: We didn’t mean to censor activists

facebook-zuckerbergEnvironmental activists were unable to post on Facebook pages support their cause this weekend, and initially thought the site was blocking this content. But the social network has spoken up, saying the blocked material wasn’t the result of manual blocking, but of its anti-spam algorithm.

The filter is designed to keep noise off of Facebook, but apparently interpreted the activists’ comments as such. Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes told the Associated Press this was unintentional. “Facebook is not – and has never been – in the business of disabling accounts or removing content simply because people are discussing controversial tropics. On the contrary, we want Facebook to be a place where people can openly express their views and opinions, even if others don’t agree with them.”

Facebook assures users that the error will be corrected, but stopped short of giving details on the algorithm, in case spammers could use the information to thwart the system.

While this particular incidence can be blamed on a technical malfunction, it might be a hint of things to come. Among other social networking sites, Facebook has become a platform for chance and a podium for activists, and that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the company. While it serves as a popular outlet for those trying to communicate their message or stir social change, that means it’s making enemies at the same time.

While the Facebook Revolutions were sweeping through the Middle East and Asia, we heard that Facebook was in continued talks with China about the possibility of launching its network there. Of course, it was to be a heavily censored version. But any agreement was slowed down by the ongoing use of Facebook as a platform for social protest and as a portal for organizing demonstrations. Around this time, a lobbyist for the company said that perhaps Facebook might be giving “too much free speech” to countries that were ill-prepared for it.

Clearly, Facebook is trying to toe the line between embracing free speech and providing a home for it, while also staying on the good side of those who could make the site more used (and thus, more valuable) than it already is. Which is why the sudden censorship activists were subject to is worth a pause. Is it possible that Facebook’s anti-spam algorithm might also be programmed to quiet particularly volatile statements from activists?

It’s nothing more than a theory, and maybe we’re simply on the paranoid side, given the current state of social media and activism. We’ve witnessed more than a few platforms willing to compromise with authorities to turn in or thwart users – some of which is understandable, and some of which is not. But we’re going to stop short of definitively pointing any fingers, and just say that these are the types of questions we need to start asking.

If anything, it’s just important to realize that these things are changing, and that Facebook might not be as friendly a home for activists as it used to be. Or, at the very least, we should consider that it might only be able to serve as a forum for open and unlimited communication in some parts of the world. By its own reasoning, some civilizations might not be prepared for as much free speech as others. But this only illustrates how social media is being questioned everywhere, including in the Western world. Limiting social networking sites seemed like something that would be out of the question – but it’s being considered. So a spam filter that might cut more inciting statements from activists doesn’t necessarily seem that preposterous.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Mobile

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.
Computing

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.
Mobile

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.
Opinion

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.
Computing

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…
Gaming

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.
Gaming

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.
Opinion

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?
Gaming

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.
Gaming

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.