Hundreds of pages of guidelines used by Facebook employees to censor speech, suppress ideas and push conversations into channels the company prefers have been revealed, and they show they include inaccurate information.
The secrets, on which the Daily Mail and others have reported, are established by a committee of company lawyers and engineers who meet to dictate “thousands” of rules about what words and phrases will be suppressed.
“They have also drawn up a list of banned organizations laying down which political groups can use their platform in every country on earth,” the Mail said of an investigation by the New York Times.
“An army of 7,500 lowly-paid moderators, many of whom work for contractors who also run call centers, enforce the rules for two billion global users with reference to a baffling array of thousands of PowerPoint slides issued from Silicon Valley,” the report said.
Their job is to make a decision – within about 10 seconds, on each post of the thousand they are expected to review daily.
The company has seen its growth explode in recent years, but it also was caught up in a scandal that developed during the 2016 presidential race, in which foreign interests apparently bought ads on the platform trying to influence to U.S. election.
Facebook’s response has been to crack down even more on what it considers politically incorrect speech, often the perspectives of conservatives across America.
Congress has begun reviewing whether the company, a literal monopoly, should be regulated.
The Mail report explains the Times obtained spreadsheet copies that show employees what they are allowed to leave on the site. The guidelines include some 1,400 pages as well as PowerPoint slides.
“The guidelines are sent out to more than 7,500 moderators around the world but some of the slides include outdated or inaccurate information,” the Mail said.
The report explained among the mistakes found: One slide tells moderators to “look out for” the phrase “Free Kashmir” even though that slogan is completely legal.
Another says Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladic still is a fugitive even though he was arrested in 2011. Yet another slide advises moderators that almost any criticism of religion in India is illegal, although it’s not.
The company’s work to police its own site has come under more and more review since it apparently sold ads to those foreign interests in 2016.
It was revealed Cambridge Analytica obtained the data of 87 million Facebook users, which it sold to political interests.
It sometimes allows extreme violence, such as beheading videos by terrorists, while marking videos from sisters Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, known as “Diamond and Silk” as “dangerous.”
MSN reported Facebook, which makes $5 billion profit per quarter, has “billions” of posts per day.
It reported the “closely held rules are extensive, and they make the company a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself, The New York Times has found.”
It said the Times got the copies from a worker who “said he feared that the company was exercising too much power, with too little oversight – and making too many mistakes.”
MSN found “an examination of the files revealed numerous gaps, biases and outright errors. As Facebook employees grope for the right answers, they have allowed extremist language to flourish in some countries while censoring mainstream speech in others.”
The report continued, “Those moderators, at times relying on Google Translate, have mere seconds to recall countless rules and apply them to the hundreds of posts that dash across their screens each day. When is a reference to ‘jihad,’ for example, forbidden? When is a ‘crying laughter’ emoji a warning sign?
“Moderators express frustration at rules they say don’t always make sense and sometimes require them to leave up posts they fear could lead to violence. ‘You feel like you killed someone by not acting,’ one said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.”
Company officials say they are working on eliminating “dangerous posts.”
“When you’re in our community, we want to make sure that we’re balancing freedom of expression and safety,” Sara Su, a news feed engineer, said in the report.
Facebook officials confirmed the authenticity of the documents obtained by the Times, the reports said.
Those documents do include a spreadsheet that names “every group and individual the company has quietly barred as a hate figure,” MSN said.
The problems the company is facing are mounting. WND reported just days ago that while Facebook’s actions have been the focus of congressional hearings, that was not enough for some.
The attorney general for the District of Columbia is suing the social media platform for “failing to honor its promise to protect its consumers’ personal data.”
AG Karl Racine charged Facebook also “deceived” users “about who had access to their data and how it was used.”
“Facebook put users at risk of manipulation by allowing companies like Cambridge Analytica and other third-party applications to collect personal data without users’ permission,” he said.
“Today’s lawsuit is about making Facebook live up to its promise to protect its users’ privacy.”
Racine said the company’s abuses “exposed nearly half of all district residents’ data to manipulation for political purposes during the 2016 election.”
Before the 2016 vote, some Facebook users downloaded a “personality quiz” app which also collected data from their Facebook friends without their knowledge or consent, the AG explained.
“The app’s developer then sold this data to Cambridge Analytica, which used it to help presidential campaigns target voters based on their personal traits. Facebook took more than two years to disclose this to its consumers. OAG is seeking monetary and injunctive relief, including relief for harmed consumers, damages, and penalties to the district,” the announcement said.
Racine’s office explained: “As part of its business model, Facebook collects data that touches on every aspect of users’ personal lives. This includes information provided by the user (name, gender, birthdate, email address, hometown, interests, education, political affiliation, photos, messages, etc.) and information about users’ digital behavior (their friends, ‘likes,’ ‘shares,’ clicks on the site, and more). Facebook offers social networking services for free and uses the personal data it collects to sell targeted advertising to marketers. It also allows third-party developers to build applications that operate on the Facebook platform and offer services including calendar and email integration, games, and quizzes.”
But in 2013, the company let Aleksandr Kogan of Cambridge University launch a program that claimed to be a personality quiz. It collected information without permission not only from the users but from their Facebook friends.
The information then was monetized.
The complaint cites violations of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act by misleading users, failing to monitor apps’ use of data, creating obstacles to users controlling their data settings and other privacy violations.
The complaint charges Facebook failed to honor its “promise to protect its consumers’ personal data.”
“Facebook collects and maintains a trove of its consumers’ personal data, as well as data regarding consumers’ digital behavior on and off the Facebook website. Facebook permits third-party developers – including developers of applications and mobile device makers – to access this sensitive information in connection with offering applications to Facebook consumers. Facebook’s consumers reasonably expect that Facebook will take appropriate steps to maintain and protect their data. Facebook tells them as much, promising that it requires applications to respect a Facebook consumer’s privacy,” the complaint charges.
“Facebook has failed to live up to this commitment.”
Not only do Facebook’s practices violate district consumer protection laws, they “misrepresented the extent to which it protects its consumers’ personal data.”
The case could be just the first of many, since Facebook’s privacy practices have been the reason for complaints by consumers nationwide.
While only 852 consumers in the district downloaded the Cambridge survey, Facebook copied the private information of more than 340,000 residents in the district.
The complaint seeks a permanent ban on Facebook’s actions, restitution, damages and “civil penalties in an amount to be proven at trial.”