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.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

2019's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Social Media

Facebook just added a petition tool. What could possibly go wrong?

Facebook now has a petition tool called Community Action. Facebook Community Actions allow users to create or support a cause. But is the feature just asking for trouble on a network already plagued by fake news and fake accounts?
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
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

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
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.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…
Computing

Can two operating systems coexist? The Pixel Slate thinks so

The Pixel Slate is a 2-in-1 device like no other. It’s not the most polished product we’ve ever used, but Google has laid the foundation for letting mobile and desktop software live side-by-side in peace.
Android

Why commercials in Android Auto could turn your dashboard into a dumpster fire

Google announced some tweaks to the Android Auto experience, focused on making messaging and media easier, but I worry about the future of the platform. For better or worse, there’s a real chance our dashboards could turn into dumpster…
Home Theater

Will Marvel’s shows lose their punch if they move from Netflix to Disney Plus?

Disney could pick up the Marvel shows being canceled by Netflix, but the idea raises all sorts of questions. Is continuing Daredevil, Punisher, or Jessica Jones on Disney's own streaming service a good move?
Gaming

‘Far Cry: New Dawn’ is a fresh, post-apocalyptic spin on a stale formula

Digital Trends visited Ubisoft's Montreal studio for an in-depth demo of 'Far Cry: New Dawn', the 'Far Cry 5' follow-up that's aiming to serve as both a sequel and standalone adventure in the sandbox series.