Facebook apologizes after report shows inconsistencies in removing hate speech

Facebook News Feed
Facebook has taken plenty of criticism on the platform’s algorithms designed to keep content within the community guidelines, but a new round of investigative reporting suggests the company’s team of human review staff could see some improvements too. In a study of 900 posts, ProPublica reports that Facebook’s review staff was inconsistent about the posts containing hate speech, removing some but not others with similar content.

Facebook apologized for some of those posts, saying that in the 49 posts highlighted by the non-profit investigative organization, reviewers made the wrong choice on 22 of those posts. The social media platform defended 19 other instances, while eight were excluded because of incorrect flags, user deletions or a lack of information. The study was crowd-sourced, with Facebook users sharing the posts with the organization.

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said that the social media platform will be expanding review staff to 20,000 people next year. “We’re sorry for the mistakes we have made — they do not reflect the community we want to help build,” he said in response to the ProPublica investigation. “We must do better.”

ProPublica said Facebook is inconsistent on the treatment of hate speech, citing examples of two different statements that both essentially wished death on an entire group of people, with only one of them removed after being flagged. The second post was later removed after the ProPublica investigation.

“Based on this small fraction of Facebook posts, its content reviewers often make different calls on items with similar content, and don’t always abide by the company’s complex guidelines,” ProPublica said. “Even when they do follow the rules, racist or sexist language may survive scrutiny because it is not sufficiently derogatory or violent to meet Facebook’s definition of hate speech.”

On the flip side, the report also found posts that were redacted that shouldn’t have been. In one example, the image contained a swastika, but the caption was asking viewers to stand up against a hate group.

The study is far from the first time ProPublica, a non-profit investigative organization, has called out Facebook’s practices this year. This fall, Facebook changed its ad targeting after a study showed that when enough users typed in their own answers into the bio fields, racial slurs could become a category for a targeted ad. Just a week ago, ProPublica demonstrated that employers could discriminate by age using those ad tools. In the first, Facebook apologized and immediately paused the ad tool until the slip up could be fully corrected, while in the second, Facebook defended its practices.

Monitoring content from the largest social media network with more than 2 billion monthly active users isn’t an easy task and one that Facebook approaches with both artificial intelligence algorithms and human reviewers. Social media networks generally attempt to find a balance between banning hateful content and prohibiting free speech. Osofsky says the platform deletes 66,000 instances of hate speech every week.

The move to a review staff of 20,000 is fairly significant — when Facebook reported in May that it would be adding 3,000 more review staff members that brought the team to 7,500 people.

ProPublica says the investigation is important “because hate groups use the world’s largest social network to attract followers and organize demonstrations.”

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. 
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Passenger spacecraft, Facebook data breach, and more

This episode of Digital Trends Live saw the fourth launch of passenger spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, and a Facebook data breach. We were also joined by the founder of Forter, Michael Reitblat, to discuss how to keep your data safe.
Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Social Media

GIF almost anywhere with Giphy’s new keyboard and sticker maker

We all love GIFs, but not every app supports them. Fortunately, the new Giphy' keyboard brings GIFs to any iOS app that supports multimedia. The update also comes with a new tool for creating animated stickers.