Facebook accused of censoring user comments

Tue 8th of May 2012, filed under Social Media

Automated systems are not perfect

Social media website Facebook has confirmed that it is making changes to its systems following the accidental blocking of an innocuous comment by a user, which has led to accusations of censorship and a flurry of conspiracy theories.

Technology blogger Robert Scoble - a former Microsoft strategist - tried to comment on a friend's post, but was greeted by an error message saying that his comment seemed 'irrelevant or inappropriate' and was therefore blocked.

The message is intended for spammers and underhand advertisers who clutter Facebook with unwanted material.

"We have automated systems that work in the background to maintain a trusted environment and protect our users from bad actors who often use links to spread spam and malware," said Facebook in a statement obtained by Techcrunch.com.

"They're not perfect, though, and in rare instances they make mistakes. This comment was mistakenly blocked as spammy, and we have already started to make adjustments to our classifier."

Google+ users have hinted at censorship

Popular writer Scoble documented the incident in a post on Google+ on 5 May, which he has since updated following communication with Facebook. He said he thinks the inclusion of three '@' links in his comment, plus the fact that he is subscribed to his friend's Facebook Page rather than being registered as his personal friend, were two likely factors in triggering the automatic response.

Visitors to Scoble's Google+ post, however, have speculated via comments that it was because the post mentioned Google+ - and some have claimed they have never managed to successfully post anything about Google+ on Facebook.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "It's frustrating when you're using a popular service and following all the rules, then suddenly get frozen out - and many people reading about Robert Scoble's recent experience will have become concerned that Facebook is getting too strict for its own good. However, it is promising that the company has been so open in discussing the issue and its intention to improve."

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