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Facebook's language gaps weaken screening of hate, terrorism

Facebook Papers House of Cards
Posted at 5:53 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 11:32:31-04

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Across the Middle East, journalists, activists and others have long accused Facebook of censoring their speech.

The Associated Press identified one example of this type of censoring, where Instagram briefly banned the hashtag #AlAqsa as the Gaza war raged and tensions surged across the Middle East in May. The hashtag was a reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The company later apologized, saying its algorithms mistook the third-holiest site in Islam for the militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of the secular Fatah party, the AP found.

In India and Myanmar, political groups use the social network to incite violence.

All of it frequently slips through Facebook’s efforts to police its social media platforms because of a shortage of moderators who speak local languages and understand cultural contexts.

Now, internal company documents from a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower, Frances Haugen, show the problems plaguing the company’s content moderation are systemic, and that Facebook has understood them for years while doing little about it.

The company says it has invested in language and topical expertise in recent years but concedes that Arabic content moderation remains a particular concern.

What are the Facebook Papers?

The Facebook Papers project represents a unique collaboration among 17 American news organizations, including The Associated Press.

Journalists from a variety of newsrooms worked together to gain access to thousands of pages of internal company documents obtained by Haugen

The papers are redacted versions of disclosures that Haugen has made over several months to the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging Facebook was prioritizing profits over safety and hiding its research from investors and the public.

These complaints cover topics including how its platforms might harm children and its alleged role in inciting political violence.