Facebook used a screenshot of a death threat to promote Instagram

1305060 autosave v1 2 37020033 m
Panithan Fakseemuang / 123RF
Score another point for human oversight — Facebook algorithms are once again being criticized for inadvertently promoting an inappropriate post. In an auto-generated Facebook post for Instagram, the algorithm promoted a screenshot of an email containing a death threat as part of the effort to encourage users to try out Instagram.

Instagram “notification posts,” as the company calls them, on Facebook are pretty common. An algorithm chooses a photo based on the number of interactions, then promotes the image on Facebook along with a list of all that user’s friends who are also on Instagram to help encourage Facebook users to join both platforms. When that same algorithm chose one of reporter Olivia Solon’s most popular posts, it was this one (be warned, the post contains graphic language):

Solon, a reporter for the Guardian, took the screenshot to demonstrate the type of hate mail she receives because of her job. The post resulted in several comments (though only a few likes), which was apparently enough for the algorithm to decide it was a good shot to use to promote Instagram to Solon’s Facebook friends.

Instagram apologized to Solon and said the post was not a paid promotion, but rather a notification post “designed to encourage engagement on Instagram.” According to Instagram, these types of notification posts are only viewed by a small percentage of a Facebook user’s friends.

The incident follows Facebook’s public apology after an organization discovered that promoted posts could be targeted to demographics like “Jew haters.” Facebook temporarily disabled the feature until the issue was corrected and said the company would be adding more human oversight to the process.

Like the automatically generated Instagram notification post, the demographic issue was a result of a lack of human oversight, allowing users to type whatever they want into the bio sections. More than 2,000 people typed “Jew hater” into one of the education fields, which meant the demographic was available for advertisers to choose from when creating a targeted post.

Facebook isn’t oblivious to the problem. Earlier in 2017, the company released a series of blog posts called “Hard Questions” that discusses how the social media platform handles topics such as hate speech and discrimination and what the company is doing to improve. Along with improving current algorithms, the company said at the time that they would be adding 3,000 employees before the end of the year to help catch what the computer misses.


Microsoft deal takes up to $400 off select Surface Book 2 laptops

Microsoft is running a promotion for the Surface Book 2, taking as much as $400 off the price of the laptop at the Microsoft Store. The promotion applies to select 13.5- or 15-inch configurations of the convertible laptop.

Earn more likes on your photos with the best cameras for Instagram

Looking to snap better Instagrams? Instagram doesn't demand high-resolution files, but upgrading your camera can deliver better bokeh and low-light quality. Here our the best cameras for Instagram.

Photography News: Instagram’s disappearing likes, the best photos of the year

In this week's Photography News, see why Instagram is testing a version that excludes the number of likes a post gets. Also, see the impressive winners from two photography contests and the latest features coming to the Fujifilm X-T3.

After controversial video, China bans ‘Leica’ on social media

A video that referenced Tiananmen Square got the name of the camera company Leica banned from the social media platform Weibo. Leica says the video wasn't an officially sanctioned promotion.
Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down worldwide for 2 hours this morning

Chaos erupted on the internet this morning, as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp all went down from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. Thousands of users were unable to access the sites or send or receive Whatsapp messages.

Skype screen sharing for mobile will let you share your swipes on dating apps

Skype is prepping the launch of screen sharing for mobile so you can share your swipes on dating apps, shop with buddies, or, perhaps, show a PowerPoint presentation to coworkers. It's in beta just now, but anyone can try it.
Social Media

Facebook toys with mixing Stories and News Feed into one swipeable carousel

Facebook's News Feed could look a lot like Stories if a prototype the social media giant is working on rolls out to users. The design change mixes Stories and News Feed posts into a full-screen slideshow that users swipe left to navigate.
Social Media

No more moon showers as Facebook Messenger’s dark mode gets official rollout

Facebook Messenger launched a dark mode last month, but to activate it you had to message the crescent moon to someone. Now it's been rolled out officially, and it can be accessed in a far more sensible way — via settings.

Twitter has revealed a launch date for its handy hide replies features

Twitter has revealed a launch date for a feature that lets users hide replies to their tweets. The hope is that it will help the original poster filter out offensive or irrelevant content from conversation threads.
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Social Media

Facebook says it unintentionally uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million users

Facebook says that over the last two years it unintentionally uploaded the email contacts of 1.5 million users as they signed up to the social networking service. The process has ended and the email addresses are being deleted.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Social Media

Vine co-founder launches beta test for new video-looping app Byte

Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann has finally launched the beta version of Byte, a new video-looping app expected to closely resemble the one that closed down in 2017 after owner Twitter withdrew support.
Social Media

Geek out for premieres or get lost in related threads with Reddit’s new tools

Can't find the Game of Thrones thread until after the episode already aired? Reddit's new event tool allows users to get alerts when an event is about to start, such as a premiere. The collections tool also helps organize related posts.