If you’re not an overly political or vulgar person, you may think Facebook’s censorship rules don’t apply to you. I’m not here to threaten or abuse people, I just look at their vacation pictures. Recently, I commented on my friend Valerie’s beach pic that she “found the perfect slutty one-piece” and I got a scary warning that said I’d face 30 days in Facebook jail for giving her a compliment!
It said my comment went against Community Standards, but it was taken completely out of context. Luckily I have Valerie’s cell so I texted her what a dumb slut she is. That made her day, I know Valerie didn’t report my comment, so who did?
I dug deeper and learned Facebook used to have a whole department of people whose sole job was to read through reported content, but most of them left the company or society completely. The things people wrote were so traumatizing they couldn’t keep anyone for longer than six weeks. One former employee is now living in a convent after reading what she calls “proof the devil exists.”
Facebook decided to get a leg up and use censorship filters to catch content and warn users their post will result in temporarily getting locked from their account. The process takes less than a second and is meant to catch abusive language before it can offend anyone, or make them legally culpable for government insurrections.
When you take into account all the abusive language that makes it onto the platform available for young people to see, it makes sense why Facebook would want help catching it.
“Robots aren’t affected by words the way we are,” explains an engineer in the censorship division. “It’s all 1’s and 0’s to them. They don’t know they’re being told to eat dicks nine million times a day.”
The problem with algorithms is they don’t understand context. They look at a violent threat the same way they do Good Charlotte lyrics. Whether speech is directed at someone, no one or themselves, it’s all the same to AI. Rodney Dangerfield jokes are abuse, referring to yourself as a Hillbilly is a threat, and cats with Hitler mustaches are propaganda.
Facebook first developed a set of community standards in response to criticism that they were allowing and profiting off hate speech. The standards dictate when they “limit expression,” and are meant to uphold the values of authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity. But it’s hard to please two billion users. Some want a scrubbed platform they can feel safe letting their children loose on, while others want freedom of speech with no consequences. That’s why Facebook publicly supports internet regulations. They don’t want to get blamed for what is and isn’t allowed on the internet.