Tech giant Facebook recently admitted that it marked posts linking to genuine information and articles about the Wuhan coronavirus as spam, blaming a “bug in an anti-spam system.”
The Verge reported that on Tuesday evening, information began rolling in across social media that Facebook was labeling some posts and articles about the Wuhan coronavirus as spam, even when the articles were genuine and factual. The spam label drastically reduces the engagement on Facebook posts, in many cases making them essentially disappear.
Users across Twitter began posting about the phenomenon:
.@Facebook — Oh wow and then three in a row !
— Kristine Schachinger (@schachin) March 17, 2020
Everyone else having pandemic response-themed posts getting flagged as spam and pulled from Facebook?
— Benjamin Lamb (@blammo70) March 17, 2020
— Ali Eslami (@CTOJoffrey) March 17, 2020
Incredible. @Facebook said my post of this Dallas Morning News article highlighting that two people in their 20s and 30s are in critical care in Dallas County and that young people aren’t invincible went against their guidelines and was removed.https://t.co/HqoIdzzcSi
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) March 17, 2020
According to Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, the issue was caused by a “bug in an anti-spam system” and Facebook began working to fix the issue on Tuesday. Rosen’s tweet about the issue can be seen below in a reply to former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos:
We're on this – this is a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce. We're in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) March 17, 2020
In another tweet, Rosen explained: “We’ve restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics — not just those related to COVID-19. This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites, but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts too.”
It was reported earlier this week that multiple Silicon Valley tech firms have stated that they’re working together to fight misinformation surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic. Facebook published a joint statement from the tech firms on its website this week. The joint statement from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube reads:
We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.
While the firms are under immense pressure to crack down on fake news relating to the virus, anti-spam systems restricting the spread of accurate information also causes major issues.