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Here's Why Facebook Has Been Marking Posts About The Coronavirus As Spam

Mark Zuckerberg said the bug was caused by a "technical error" in the social network's spam detection system.

Last updated on March 17, 2020, at 10:09 p.m. ET

Posted on March 17, 2020, at 8:23 p.m. ET

Josh Russell / Via Twitter

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says a bug that flagged Facebook posts with links to articles published by reputable news sites about the coronavirus as spam was caused by an error with the company's spam detection system.

Many people complained on social media on Tuesday that they had received notifications that posts with links to articles by news publications went against Facebook's Community Standards.

Something really weird is happening on @Facebook. A bunch of coronavirus posts from good sources like Atlantic and Politico are being flagged as spam. Happening to me and others. I'm the moderator of a huge community group, vetting medical info 15 hours a day. FB, don't do this!

Twitter

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg told reporters that the problem was caused by a "technical error."

Finally, Zuckerberg clarifies yesterday issue. re: links being marked as spam had nothing to do w/ coronavirus or content moderation policies, says it was a "technical error" related to spam detection system

On Tuesday evening, Facebook's vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, confirmed the bug on Twitter and said the company had restored all the posts that were unintentionally removed.

We’ve restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics - not just those related to COVID-19. This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites, but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts too.

Posts linking to articles published by BuzzFeed News, Politico, the Atlantic, and the Sydney Morning Herald about the coronavirus were all flagged.

Posted @ginarush's piece from the other day along with a comment about my own experiences on Facebook. Today I was notified that my post had violated the community standards of spam 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃

Twitter

Users were told that the reach of their post had been limited so "no one else can see your post."

Facebook is flagging all coronavirus-related web links as spam and breaching community standards. Happening right around the world https://t.co/8reJQ8OZGC

Twitter

Earlier, Rosen rebuked speculation by the company's former security chief, Alex Stamos, that the error was a result of "less human oversight" of an anti-spam machine learning algorithm.

@alexstamos We're on this - this is a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce. We're in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.

Twitter

Facebook told its workers Monday to work from home if possible. On Tuesday, the company told its contract moderators not to come into the office; however, they are barred from working from home due to privacy concerns.

Facebook has previously launched a number of initiatives to combat misinformation and spam about the coronavirus, including allowing health authorities to flag fake news and showing users an information module when searching for information about the virus.


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