Last week, a couple of legitimate news articles and posts about COVID-19 disappeared from Facebook. My Facebook post raising awareness about the Union’s support for start-ups to fight COVID-19 got also caught up in this. Application for funds that were made available to support start-ups able to produce solution that could fight the virus was originally open until March 18, 2020. In an attempt to spread the news to all potential interested parties, several followers of mine notified me that they weren’t able to share my post raising awareness about this or links to Commission’s website. What exactly happened is that people sharing the blog post got a notification that the post goes against the community standards on spam and, therefore, no one else is able to see this post. However, personally I never got a notification that link to my post is considered as spam.
How about to try Facebook’s complaint mechanism?
When users tried to use the complaint mechanism of Facebook they got merely a reply thanking them for the contribution and claiming that it will be used to improve the social networks future services.
However, the post still wasn’t made public, while the deadline for the application was over on March 18. This, given the current emergency situation and low supply of protective equipment, is not acceptable. Fortunately, the Commission extended the deadline by two days to 5 p.m. on March 20. That didn’t, however, allow the information to be shared by my post much. Facebook reinstated the post on March 20 at 11:30 a.m.
Why did it happen?
As it later turned out, this was due to a “bug in an anti-spam system”. Several social media companies also warned users that artificial intelligence based content moderation systems are used more extensively without human review.
This case clearly demonstrated the need for human oversight for such technologies, and a clear proof of why automated technologies shouldn’t be mandated by law. In my work in the European Parliament, I will continue to defend this point of view on our work on the Terrorism Regulation, but also on the upcoming legislation on the Digital Services Act.