Facebook seems to be having some trouble with its handling of information amid the coronavirus outbreak. Reports have confirmed that its news filtering system appears to be experiencing a fundamental malfunction.
On Tuesday evening, several social media users confirmed that Facebook’s systems have started to mark some news links about the coronavirus as spam, thus preventing them from reaching the appropriate audience.
System Failure Affects Multiple Users
Mike Godwin, a lawyer, and author based out of Washington D.C. revealed that the social media giant had classified a news article on the coronavirus published by the Times of India as spam. Other users soon joined in expressing shock that posts related to the virus outbreak were being taken down for violating Facebook’s community standards on spam.
Alex Stamos, a technology researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory in San Francisco, was of the opinion that the company’s anti-spam system was malfunctioning. Stamos revealed the company had sent content moderators home from work on Monday due to the coronavirus crisis.
“We might be seeing the start of the ML [Machine Learning] going nuts with less human oversight,” he concluded.
The anti-spam bug was confirmed by Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity. Replying to Stamos, Rosen denied that a change to the company’s content moderator workforce had caused it. However, he confirmed that a fix was underway, and everything would be resolved soon.
Rosen confirmed earlier this morning that all issues had been fixed, pointing out that all posts that were marked as being spam — including but not limited to those relating to the virus outbreak — have now been restored.
“This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites, but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts, too,” he added.
Facebook’s Hard-line Approach to Coronavirus Information
Facebook has been slammed in the past for its content moderation and filtering policies. In the wake of the rise of fake news and deep fake videos, the firm has come under immense pressure from activists and politicians to enforce stricter controls over what is obviously fake news.
However, the tech giant has taken a hard stance against false news reporting when it comes to the coronavirus. In January, the firm and its subsidiary Instagram confirmed that it would be removing all false claims and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus if it believes that the news pieces pose a threat to readers.
As explained at the time, the policy applies to both platforms and it includes misinformation about things like prevention methods, fake cures, as well as all claims that could mislead people about the availability of health resources. Instagram hashtags used to spread misinformation will also be restricted.
It reinforced its commitment against false information reporting yesterday, releasing a joint statement on the matter along with Reddit, Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.