After algorithm glitches Facebook CEO now talks of “operational mistake”

The social media giant’s review team missed complaints of Kenosha Guard militia’s FB page which led to delayed counter-measures.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has termed the platform’s failure to prevent racially-motivated killings that left two people dead and one person injured in Wisconsin as an “operational mistake,” reported The Guardian on August 29.

According to the report, the Kenosha Guard militia used a Facebook event page to invite “patriots” to help protect the city from “evil thugs” meaning the protesters denouncing the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Despite clear violation of its policy against violence the company failed to remove either the page or the event. This is yet another example of the social media platform failing to address the absent implementation of its community standards.

During a staff meeting, Zuckerberg called the failure an “operational mistake” since the contractors/ reviewers – people who review complaints regarding dangerous organisations – “basically didn’t pick this up.”

Previously, Zuckerberg has also blamed algorithms the company’s inability to detect content that violates hate-speech policies.

The page was eventually taken down after the killing. However, the CEO said Facebook had found no evidence to suggest the alleged shooter responded to the Facebook event.

Many of the company’s employees also expressed anger at the platform’s inability to curb violence and hatred. This is not the first time that Facebook employees have criticised the company’s approach to addressing its community standards. After the Wall Street Journal article, even Indian entities have been critical of Facebook’s functioning.

As damage control, the company is filtering content that supports the Kenosha killing in any way since it had failed to do so on other social media platforms like Instagram.

Facebook’s rules already ban “content that praises, supports, or represents events that Facebook designates as terrorist attacks, hate events, mass murders or attempted mass murders, serial murders, hate crimes and violating events”.

As such, the company has already removed specific posts praising the shooter that the Guardian had shared with it. It banned the page of Joshua Feuerstein, an evangelical Christian social media influencer, who had shared a meme favouring the alleged shooter titled, “SHARE THIS BEFORE THEY TAKE IT DOWN AGAIN!” On Thursday, the meme was shared more than 3,700 times. Feuerstein also posted an Instagram meme mocking the injured Kenosha victim.

According to the spokesperson, Facebook is also blocking hashtags and removing fundraisers. The company is also “hashing” photos and videos that violate this ban, a process that involves applying a unique digital fingerprint to digital images, allowing systems to automatically block users from re-uploading an image that has already been deemed to violate a rule.

The recent incidents of digital hate on social media platforms suggest a need for thorough revision of current policies. Moreover, people in-charge of implementing these policies need to be chosen with care.

As stated by MediaNama founder Nikhil Pahwa during a Legislative Assembly proceeding in Delhi, “cyber space needs to be stabilised on a global level.” Even review teams hired by companies like Facebook can only screen content based on global community standards.


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