Archive for July 4, 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Facebook’s Political False Positives

Christian Britschgi (via Clark Goble):

America’s founding document might be too politically incorrect for Facebook, which flagged and removed a post consisting almost entirely of text from the Declaration of Independence. The excerpt, posted by a small community newspaper in Texas, apparently violated the social media site’s policies against hate speech.


Of course, Facebook’s actions here are silly. They demonstrate a problem with automated enforcement of hate speech policies, which is that a robot trained to spot politically incorrect language isn’t smart enough to detect when that language is part of a historically significant document.

Sarah Frier (via Nick Heer):

The three ads have in common the use of the word “bush.” Facebook Inc.’s system automatically associated the word with the former presidents of that family name, flagging them as political and blocking them, pending verification of the advertiser’s identity. They now appear in Facebook’s searchable archive of political advertising – the company’s newly launched initiative to increase transparency around who is paying to promote certain political ideas. The archive is home to dozens of ads that don’t belong there, from various schools, towns, brands and people that happen to share names with presidents.


“Clinton” is one of the most popular names for cities in the U.S., not just the surname of the political family. In Clinton, Indiana, a vacation bible school was blocked from advertising a free lunch event for kids aged 3 to 12. “Come learn how COOL Jesus’s love is!” it said, including a picture of a flier featuring animated penguins.


The mislabeling indicates how far Facebook has to go in applying artificial intelligence to policing its platform. Despite some progress, the company’s ads system still uses crude keyword cues, without understanding the broader context of what is said. That affects not just what Facebook takes down, but what it fails to find. Earlier this year, some companies easily circumvented Facebook’s temporary ban on bitcoin ads by misspelling bitcoin, putting a zero where the “o” should be.