Saturday, May 5th, 2012 - Today was just another Saturday morning in blog land when Robert Scoble, the well-known tech startup enthusiast, went to post a comment on a Facebook post written by Carnegie Mellon student (and TechCrunch commenter extraordinaire) Max Woolf about the nature of today’s tech blogging scene. Scoble’s comment itself was pretty par-for-the-course — generally agreeing with Woolf’s sentiments and adding in his own two cents.
But when Scoble went to click post, he received an odd error message:
“This comment seems irrelevant or inappropriate and can’t be posted. To avoid having comments blocked, please make sure they contribute to the post in a positive way.”
Now, Facebook makes no apologies for working to create a safe and clean environment on its corner of the web by shutting down abusive or harassing behavior, content such as pornography, or general spamming of the system. This particular method policing “inappropriate” comments may be new, but it would fall within the same realm.
But even so, this instance seems to be a very strange enactment of any kind of Facebook policy. Scoble posted his original comment in its entirety on his Google+ page, and it’s clear that it contains no profanity or even any obvious argumentative language.
Of course, what makes a comment “positive” or “negative” is a very subjective thing. Since Facebook is a global site, and what is acceptable in one culture is offensive in another, the company generally relies on a combination of software algorithms and notifications from other users to identify inappropriate behavior. This seems to show a glitch in that system.
This could be similar to what happened to film critic Roger Ebert back in January 2011, when Facebook temporarily disabled Ebert’s blog because of allegedly “abusive comment.” It turns out that Ebert’s blog never actually contained objectionable content — a number of Facebook users hadflagged his page as “abusive” after he wrote a critical tweet about Ryan Dunn, an actor who died in a drunk driving accident. It could be that Robert Scoble has been similarly flagged by other Facebook users, for reasons justified or not.
Scoble’s a pretty popular guy on the web, so not surprisingly his Google+ post about the incident attracted more than 100 comments within the first hour after he posted it. Several other people there report having seen the same message in recent days, and one person named Steven Streightwrote that recently his Facebook commenting ability was “temporarily limited” because of comments that he says were similarly benign such as “I’m a married man.” TechCrunch commenters have weighed in on this post as well to recount similar experiences.
Not surprisingly, a number of people are seeing this as an example of censorship — a word that almost always has negative connotations in the tech world.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for more information on what this policy means, how it is powered, and what specific words or behaviors it is meant to filter. We’ll update this post if we hear anything back and as the situation develops.
Update: A Facebook policy spokesperson emailed the following explanation:
“To protect the millions of people who connect and share on Facebook every day, we have automated systems that work in the background to maintain a trusted environment and protect our users from bad actors who often use links to spread spam and malware. These systems are so effective that most people who use Facebook will never encounter spam. They’re not perfect, though, and in rare instances they make mistakes. This comment was mistakenly blocked as spammy, and we have already started to make adjustments to our classifier. We look forward to learning from rare cases such as these to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistake in the future.
For more information about our spam prevention systems, please see this blog post: https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=403200567130.”
'We have removed content you posted'
We have removed the following content you posted or were the admin of because it violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities: photo
During several months, our Facebook account was closed for so called 'security reasons' and our name and our posts were not to find on Facebook anymore.
Today we attempt again to visit our Facebook account.
We received the message above.
This message gives the false impression that Facebook was blocking our Facebook account during the past months only for reason of the publication of this previously published photo and the so called 'violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities'.
It is still impossible to visit our Facebook account. Facebook claims that we are now blocked from posting content on Facebook for 24 hours and wants again a 'security check'.
It was with this kind of difficult 'security checks' if you have more than 1.000 interested 'friends', and by our refusal to give our phone number for a check of the Facebook-police, that Facebook prevented us during several months to visit our account and that all our posts and research information were during all that time invisible.
It is not the first time that Facebook closed our account and that all our information and researches disappeared. Princess J. de Croÿ who worked around the Zandvoort childporn case, and many Palestinian activists were already victim of this 'subtle' form of censorship.
At the moment we wanted to publish this post, our internet connection was broken and the shocking picture of the seriously wounded girl, disappeared from this blog just after publication. Thus we were obliged to use a copy of the forbidden picture.
We published also some photos of president Barrack Obama and Facebook boss Marc Zückerberg on our Facebook account. The pictures show how they are drinking champaign and making jokes with some of their friends. At that moment Libya was bombed during day and night by NATO aircraft and missiles. I wonder or these pictures of the preachers of the 'Arab spring', are still online.
Jan Boeykens, president of Werkgroep Morkhoven
You are temporarily blocked
This is your second warning for violating Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You are now blocked from posting content on Facebook for 24 hours. If you continue to abuse Facebook's features, your account could be permanently disabled.
Review the Facebook community standards
To keep your account in good standing, when your 24-hour block is over, please remove any remaining content on your account that violates the Facebook terms.<br><br>Learn more about our policies by reviewing the Facebook community standards: <a href="http://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/</a>
Please complete a security check
Security checks help keep Facebook trustworthy and free of spam.
- Identify photos of friends
- Verify my account with a phone number
Russia Wants ICC to Examine All NATO Bombings in Libya
MOSCOW, May 18 2012 (RIA Novosti) - Russia hopes that the International Criminal Court will consider all cases of NATO airstrikes in Libya that caused civilian casualties, Foreign Ministry human rights spokesman Konstantin Dolgov said in the statement published on the ministry’s website.
“We welcome the decision of ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to consider alleged violations of international humanitarian law," the statement said. "We presume that the ICC will consider all cases of NATO bombing that caused civilian casualties.”
“The issue of civilian casualties during the NATO Libyan campaign has been repeatedly raised at the UN Security Council and the UN Council on Human Rights.”
“An impartial international investigation into the effects of NATO air strikes during Operation United Defender in Libya is necessary to prevent such tragedies in the future,” the statement said.
(There were some problems with the publication of this article)