Facebook struggles to get machines to stamp out hate speech

May 16, 2018, 13:38
Facebook struggles to get machines to stamp out hate speech

Facebook has released internal figures on abusive content found and removed from the site for the first time, revealing the scale of malicious content on the social network.

Facebook plans to continue publishing new enforcement reports, and will refine its methodology on measuring which bad content circulates over the platform.

Facebook removed almost 30 million posts it deemed as graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda and hate speech.

In 85.6 per cent of the cases, Facebook detected the images before being alerted to them by users, said the report, issued the day after the company said about 200 apps had been suspended on its platform as part of an investigation into misuse of private user data.

Even after all that disabling, though, Facebook has said that 3 percent to 4 percent of its active monthly users are fake, meaning up to 88 million fake accounts slip through.

The posts that keep the Facebook reviewers the busiest are those showing adult nudity or sexual activity - quite apart from child pornography, which is not covered by the report.

It took down 21 million pieces of adult nudity and sexual activity in Q1 2018 - the company's systems had already flagged 96% before being reported.

Meanwhile, Facebook removed or added warning labels to about 3.5 million pieces of graphic violence content.

As the largest social network, Facebook is home to billions of users and billions more posts, photos and videos shared on a daily basis. The company removed 2.5 million pieces of hate speech in Q1, 38 percent of which was flagged by its technology. Summits are expected later in the year in India, Singapore and the US.

In its first public release of such data, Facebook said that of every 10,000 pieces of content viewed on the social platform in the first quarter, an estimated 22 to 27 pieces contained graphic violence, up from an estimate of 16 to 19 late past year, Reuters reports.

Facebook is struggling to block hate speech posts, conceding its detection technology "still doesn't work that well" and it needs to be checked by human moderators. It said the rise was due to improvements in detection. "This is the same data we use to measure our progress internally - and you can now see it to judge our progress for yourselves".

"In addition, in many areas - whether it's spam, porn or fake accounts - we're up against sophisticated adversaries who continually change tactics to circumvent our controls, which means we must continuously build and adapt our efforts".

Since the fallout over political firm Cambridge Analytica obtaining millions of Facebook users' data without their permission, Facebook reiterated its commitment to being more transparent.

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