Social platforms and big tech companies have stepped up amid the coronavirus pandemic, moving aggressively to try and combat misinformation and put expert, reliable sources front and center for users. And people have been using Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and various other platforms to share community information, offer help, and shame their peers and parents into social distancing.
But over the past day or so, there was an unexplained spike in removals and flagging of posts relating to the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. Users on Facebook and Twitter reported that innocuous, informative, or authentic news posts about the outbreak were being flagged as spam or removed.
Facebook is currently suffering from a partial outage causing links to legitimate coronavirus related content being wrongly flagged as spam.
Big name publishers titles are having links to their content flagged.
Some page reporting a massive drop in post reach currently.
— Matt Navarra 😷 (@MattNavarra) March 17, 2020
Something is going on on Facebook. I’ve seen four separate people in the past couple hours saying their posts about coronavirus were marked as “spam”. And one of them is an epidemiologist.
— Aylan (AY like Day – LAN like LandBack) Couchie (@AylanX) March 17, 2020
Facebook’s VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen, assured users via Twitter on Tuesday evening U.S. time that the cause was “a bug in an anti-spam system,” with a fix on the way, which he confirmed in a later tweet.
He also denied that the pattern was a result of “changes in [the] content moderator workforce.” Those teams, which are largely composed of contract workers, were finally sent home from offices on Tuesday, as part of social distancing efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
We’re on this – this is a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce. We’re in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) March 17, 2020
We’ve restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics – not just those 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.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) March 18, 2020
While some users have speculated that there may be a coordinated effort to report coronavirus coverage, which some Trump supporters falsely perceive as a campaign by “the media” to undermine the president, there’s currently no evidence for this.
Mashable has reached out to Facebook for comment and clarification, and will update with any response.
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