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Facebook’s new transparency report now includes data on takedowns of ‘bad’ content, including hate speech

Facebook this morning released its latest Transparency report, where the social network shares information on government requests for user data, noting that these requests had increased globally by around 4 percent compared to the first half of 2017, though U.S. government-initiated requests stayed roughly the same. In addition, the company added a new report to accompany the usual Transparency report, focused on detailing how and why Facebook takes action on enforcing its Community Standards, specifically in the areas of graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, spam and fake accounts. In terms of government requests for user data, the global increase led to 82,341 requests in the second half of 2017, up from 78,890 during the first half of the year.   U.S. requests stayed roughly the same at 32,742; though 62 percent included a non-disclosure clause that prohibited Facebook from alerting the user – thats up from 57 percent in the earlier part of the year, and up from 50 percent from the report before that. This points to use of the NDA becoming far more common among law enforcement agencies. The number of pieces of content Facebook restricted based on local laws declined during the second half of the year, going from 28,036 to 14,294. But this is not surprising – the last report had an unusual spike in these sort of requests due to a school shooting in Mexico, which led to the government asking for content to be removed. There were also 46 46 disruptions of Facebook services in 12 countries in the second half of 2017, compared to 52 disruptions in nine countries in the first half. And Facebook and Instagram took down 2,776,665 pieces of content based on 373,934 copyright reports, 222,226 pieces of content based on 61,172 trademark reports and 459,176 pieces of content based on 28,680 counterfeit reports. However, the more interesting data this time around comes from a new report Facebook is appending to its Transparency report, called the Community Standards Enforcement Report which focuses on the actions of Facebooks review team. This is the first time Facebook has released its numbers related to its enforcement efforts, and follows its recent publication of its internal guidelines three weeks ago. In 25 pages, Facebook in April explained how it moderates content on its platform, specifically around areas like graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, spam and fake accounts. These are areas where Facebook is often criticized when it screws up – like when it took down the newsworthy Napalm Girl historical photo because it contained child nudity, before realizing the mistake and restoring it. It has also been more recently criticized for contributing to Myanmar violence, as extremists hate speech-filled posts incited violence. This is something Facebook also today addressed through an update for Messenger, which now allows users to report conversations that violate community standards. Todays Community Standards report details the number of takedowns across the various categories it enforces. Facebook says that spam and fake account takedowns are the largest category, with 837 million pieces of spam removed in Q1 – almost all proactively removed before users reported it. Facebook also disabled 583 million fake accounts, the majority within minutes of registration. During this time, around 3-4 percent of Facebook accounts on the site were fake. The company is likely hoping the scale of these metrics makes it seem like its doing a great job, when in reality, it didnt take that many Russian accounts to throw Facebooks entire operation into disarray, leading to CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before a Congress thats now considering regulations. In addition, Facebook says it took down the following in Q1 2018: You may notice that one of those areas is lagging in terms of enforcement and automation. Facebook, in fact, admits that its system for identifying hate speech still doesnt work that well, so it needs to be checked by review teams. … we have a lot of work still to do to prevent abuse, writes Guy Rosen, VP of Product Management, on the Facebook blog. Its partly that technology like artificial intelligence, while promising, is still years away from being effective for most bad content because context is so important. In other words, A.I. can be useful at automatically flagging things like nudity and violence, but policing hate speech requires more nuance than the machines can yet handle. The problem is that people may be discussing sensitive topics, but theyre doing it to share news, or in a respectful manner, or even describing something that happened to them. Its not always a threat or hate speech, but a system only parsing words without understanding the full discussion doesnt know this. To get an A.I. system up to par in this area, it requires a ton of training data. And Facebook says it doesnt have that for some of the less widely-used languages. (This is also a likely response to the Myanmar situation, where the company belatedly – after six civil society organizations,  criticized Mr. Zuckerberg in a letter – said it had hired dozens of human moderators. Critics say thats not enough – in Germany, for example, which has strict laws around hate speech – Facebook hired about 1,200 moderators, The NYT said.) It seems the obvious solution is staffing up moderation teams everywhere, until A.I. technology can do as good of a job as it can on other aspects of content policy enforcement. This costs money, but its also clearly critical when people are dying as a result of Facebooks lacking ability to enforce its own policies. Facebook claims its hiring as a result, but doesnt share the details of how many, where or when. …were investing heavily in more people and better technology to make Facebook safer for everyone wrote Rosen. But Facebooks main focus, it seems, is on improving technology. Facebook is investing heavily in more people to review content that is flagged. But as Guy Rosen explained two weeks ago, new technology like machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence helps us find more bad content, more quickly – far more quickly, and at a far greater scale, than people ever can, said Alex Schultz, Vice President of Analytics, in a related post on Facebooks methodology. He touts A.I. in particular as being a tool that could get content off Facebook before its even reported. But A.I. isnt ready to police all hate speech yet, so Facebook needs a stop gap solution – even if it costs.

Facebook’s first content moderation report finds terrorism posts up 73 percent this year

Facebook took enforcement action on 1.9 million posts related to terrorism by Al Qaeda and ISIS in the first quarter of this year, the company said, up from 1.1 million posts in the last quarter of 2018. The increased enforcement, which typically results in posts being removed and accounts being suspended or banned from Facebook, resulted from improvements in machine learning that allowed the company to find more terrorism-related photos, whether they were newly uploaded or had been on Facebook for longer. Facebook found 99.5 percent of terrorism-related posts before they were flagged by users, it said. In the previous quarter, 97 percent of posts were found by the company on its own. Facebook made the data available as part of its first ever Community Standards Enforcement Report, which documents content moderation actions taken by the company between October and March. Other findings in the report include: Graphic violence. Posts that included graphic violence represented from 0.22 percent to 0.27 percent of views, up from 0.16 to 0.19 percent in the previous quarter. The company took action on 3.4 million posts, up from 1.2 million in the previous quarter. It said violent posts appeared to have risen in conjunction with the intensifying conflict in Syria. Nudity and sex. Posts with nudity or sexual activity represented 0.07 to 0.09 percent of views, up from 0.06 to 0.08 percent in the previous quarter. The company took action on 21 million posts, about the same as the previous quarter. Hate speech. Facebook took action on 2.5 million posts for violating hate speech rules, up 56 percent from the previous quarter. Users reported 62 percent of hate speech posts before Facebook took action on them. Spam. Facebook took action on 837 million spam posts, up 15 percent from the previous quarter. The company says it detected nearly 100 percent of spam posts before users could report them. Fake accounts. Of Facebooks monthly users, 3 to 4 percent are fake accounts, the company said. It removed 583 million fake accounts in the first quarter of the year, down from 694 million in the previous quarter. The data, which the company plans to issue at least twice a year, is a move toward holding ourselves accountable, Facebook said in its report. This guide explains our methodology so the public can understand the benefits and limitations of the numbers we share, as well as how we expect these numbers to change as we refine our methodologies. Were committed to doing better, and communicating more openly about our efforts to do so, going forward. The company is still working to develop accurate metrics that describe how often hate speech is seen on the platform, said Guy Rosen, a vice president of product management, in an interview with reporters. The companys machine-learning systems have trouble identifying hate speech because computers have trouble understanding the context around speech. Theres a lot of really tricky cases, Rosen said. Is a slur being used to attack someone? Is it being used self-referentially? Or is it a completely innocuous term when its used in a different context? The final decisions on hate speech are made by human moderators, he added. Still, people post millions of unambiguously hateful posts to Facebook. In March, the United Nations said Facebook was responsible for spreading hatred of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. Facebooks lack of moderators who speak the local language has hampered it in its effort to reduce the spread of hate speech. We definitely have to do more to make sure we pay attention to those, Rosen said, noting that the company had recently hired more moderators in the area. The enforcement report arrives a month after Facebook made its community standards public for the first time. The standards document what is and isnt allowed on Facebook, and serves as a guide for Facebooks global army of content moderators. Facebook is releasing its enforcement report at a time when the company is under increasing pressure to reduce hate speech, violence, and misinformation on its platform. Under pressure from Congress, Facebook has said it will double its safety and security team to 20,000 people this year.