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.
It published a report on its community guideline enforcement efforts. Last month, Facebook published its internal community enforcement guidelines for the first time and today, the company has provided some numbers to show what that enforcement really looks like. In a new report that will be published quarterly, Facebook breaks down its enforcement efforts across six main areas -- graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, spam and fake accounts. The report details how much of that content was seen by Facebook users, how much of it was removed and how much of it was taken down before any Facebook users reported it. Spam and fake accounts were the most prevalent and in the first quarter of this year, Facebook removed 837 million pieces of spam and 583 million fake accounts. Additionally, the company acted on 21 million pieces of nudity and sexual activity, 3.5 million posts that displayed violent content, 2.5 million examples of hate speech and 1.9 million pieces of terrorist content. In some cases, Facebook's automated systems did a good job finding and flagging content before users could report it. Its systems spotted nearly 100 percent of spam and terrorist propaganda, nearly 99 percent of fake accounts and around 96 percent of posts with adult nudity and sexual activity. For graphic violence, Facebook's technology accounted for 86 percent of the reports. However, when it came to hate speech, the company's technology only flagged around 38 percent of posts that it took action on and Facebook notes it has more work to do there. " As Mark Zuckerberg said at F8, we have a lot of work still to do to prevent abuse," Facebook's VP of product management, Guy Rosen, said in a post. "It's partly that technology like artificial intelligence, while promising, is still years away from being effective for most bad content because context is so important." Throughout the report, Facebook shares how the most recent quarter's numbers compare to those of the quarter before it, and where there are significant changes, it notes why that might be the case. For example, with terrorist propaganda, Facebook says its increased removal rate is due to improvements in photo detection technology that can spot both old and newly posted content. "This is a great first step," the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jillian York told the Guardian. " However, we don't have a sense of how many incorrect takedowns happen -- how many appeals that result in content being restored. We'd also like to see better messaging to users when an action has been taken on their account, so they know the specific violation." "We believe that increased transparency tends to lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time, and publishing this information will push us to improve more quickly too," wrote Rosen. "This is the same data we use to measure our progress internally -- and you can now see it to judge our progress for yourselves. We look forward to your feedback."