Facebook fixes bug incorrectly marking COVID-19 articles as spam

Facebook has fixed a bug that initially incorrectly flagged posts related to COVID-19 as spam. According to VP for integrity Guy Rosen in a tweet, the company has restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed. This included posts on all topics and not just 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," he explained. Rosen also said in an initial tweet that the occurrence was due to a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in its content moderator workforce. Marketing also encountered a similar issue when one of its journalists shared a news article on her personal Facebook account about Cartoon Network's PSA for children. In the alert, Facebook said the post goes against its community standards on spam and the standards prevent things such as "false advertising, fraud and security breaches".

facebook cartoon network spam

This issue arose just after Facebook ordered its employees worldwide to work from home in a bid to keep them safe amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. It is also working with partners over the course of this week to send home all contract workers who perform content review, until further notice. 

"We believe the investments we’ve made over the past three years have prepared us for this situation," Facebook said. It added that with fewer individuals available for human review, it will continue to prioritise imminent harm and increase its reliance on proactive detection in other areas to remove violating content.

"We don’t expect this to impact people using our platform in any noticeable way. That said, there may be some limitations to this approach and we may see some longer response times and make more mistakes as a result," the post said.

(Read also: Containing the online spread of fake news on Wuhan coronavirus)

Separately, Facebook is also setting aside US$100 million cash grants to help 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries where its employees live and work. Among the list of countries Facebook is present in include Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a Facebook post that it also aims to make it easier for businesses everywhere to find help and receive training and support from Facebook's teams.

As such, it has made its Business Hub readily available for businesses. The Business Hub is a resource for Facebook employees and health experts. Additionally, it is also putting together new virtual training to support businesses operating amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them. We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work," Sandberg said.

She added that Facebook is also looking at additional ways to host virtual trainings and is finding more ways to help people connect and learn to use technology through its free e-learning training programme, Blueprint. More recently, Facebook pledged US$20 million to the UN Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the CDC Foundation in a bid to tackle COVID-19. The other US$10 million will go to the CDC Foundation, which will launch a fundraiser in the next few weeks focused on combating the outbreak in the US.

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