4 min read

A free pass for Facebook

The week in content moderation - edition #26

Hello and thanks for taking a chance on this week's Everything in Moderation newsletter.

I don’t have a podcast recommendation this week but if you happen to be in Washington next week, you can join representatives of Airbnb, Tumblr and Wikimedia to discuss the nuts and bolts of content moderation.

I’m on holiday for a few days from Monday so I won’t be sending an update (unless the weather’s bad and I change my mind).

Thanks for reading — BW

PS Today’s send is later than usual, especially for folks in the UK. Apologies.

Facebook's free pass

Three English-speaking news orgs (The Drum, The Telegraph, BBC) were recently invited to Facebook’s content moderation centre in Barcelona to see how 800 Competence Call Centre employees review content on the social network's behalf.

It was the first time that Facebook had opened their doors at this new office, which opened last year and is just one of 22 locations in eight countries where around 5,000 CCC employees deliver mainly incoming and outgoing call solutions but also some moderation services.

The Drum published its piece this week (they’re the only ones so far, as far as I can tell) and not only is there nothing revealing in there, I’d go as far as saying it’s a puff piece with little journalistic integrity.

Unlike The Verge's widely-read secret life of moderators piece from February, for which journalist Casey Newton spoke to a dozen current and former employees of Cognizant as well as visiting their offices, The Drum's piece has no outside voices, only carefully selected Facebook voices (including the possibly partial director of vendor partner management  and a product manager for community integrity) and quotes from three handpicked moderators.

There's also little background about Competence Call Centre, a company that Vice Germany looked into when they opened a similar content moderation facility in Essen but which (strangely) doesn't offer any word moderation services on their website and which Glassdoor reviews reveal to have poor management and short lunch breaks. One former employee called it 'definitively the worst call center in Barcelona' (sic) and another referred to it as 'modern slavery'.

I'm not blaming the journalist here per se (I've worked in newsrooms and understand how stories get commissioned) but I believe that the issues around content moderation can only improve if journalists and editors do their job and ask important and difficult questions of people making policy and product in these companies.

Uncritical 2,500 features spouting Facebook’s party line do no good for anyone, not even Facebook.

Not forgetting

YouTube #1: No doubt you will have seen Vox journalist Carlos Maza’s thread (May 30) about offensive remarks made about him by conservative YouTuber Steven Crowder. Well, YouTube finally got round to responding (June 5) but their promises of reviewing their harassment policy didn’t exactly make anything clearer...

Official YouTube Blog: Taking a harder look at harassment

YouTube #2: A long-read (which I’ve not yet got to the end of tbh) about how YouTube became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories (including one about a lizard cult)

Official YouTube Blog: Taking a harder look at harassment

This request by the editors of SB Nation site, Roll 'bama Roll to readers to heed the terms of use is one of the best articles of its kind I’ve read. Light-hearted, personal and by the sounds of it, unlikely to work

We have to have a Community Guidelines reminder...again. - Roll 'Bama Roll

Why do we keep having to do this?

New organisations have, for a long while, rowed back on comment sections on their websites. Which makes it even more pleasing that Mother Jones is doing the opposite. And with the good folks at The Coral Project too.

We’re Launching a Better Commenting Experience. And We Want Your Feedback. – Mother Jones

Photographers have been unfairly treated by Facebook’s no nudity policy and want a fairer deal

Facebook to Reconsider Nudity Policy After Photographers Protest

Photography and Camera News, Reviews, and Inspiration

The very respected David Kaye writes for Slate about three guidelines that companies and governments should consider when thinking about regulation

The Clash Over Regulating Online Speech Goes Well Beyond the U.S. and Europe

Human rights standards protect all sorts of speech, but they do not require free-fire zones of disinformation, hatred, and harassment.

PC Mag makes the point that spam is Facebook’s biggest challenge and has accounted for more takedowns than all other type of content combined in Q1 of 2019

Facebook's AI Is Good at Detecting Spam but Struggles With Hate Speech and Harassment - PCMag UK

Facebook's content-moderation algorithms detected 99 percent of spam before users reported it but caught only 65 percent of hate speech and 14 percent of harassment, according to the company's latest Community Standards Enforcement Report.

I’ve not round to reading it yet but the Electronic Frontier Foundation published a paper this week in partnership with the Syrian Archive, and Witness analysing the impact of platform rules and content moderation practices related to "extremist” speech. It’s Jillian C.York so you can bet it’s worth reading.

The Impact of "Extremist" Speech Regulations on Human Rights Content | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Today, EFF is publishing a new white paper, "Caught in the Net: The Impact of 'Extremist' Speech Regulations on Human Rights Content." The paper is a joint effort of EFF, Syrian Archive, and Witness and was written in response to the Christchurch Call to Action. This paper analyzes the impact of platform rules and content moderation practices related to "extremist" speech on

Everything in Moderation is a weekly newsletter about content moderation and the policies, products, platforms and people shaping its future.