Facebook was marking legitimate news articles about the coronavirus as spam due to a software bug

Facebook started marking some posts linking to information and articles about the coronavirus and COVID-19 as spam, as observed by one Verge reporter and many users on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

The issue was due to a “bug in an anti-spam system,” according to Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity. Rosen said the company began working on a fix as soon as discovering the issue.

Here are a few examples of affected Facebook posts:

Following publication of The Verge’s report, Rosen said Facebook had resolved the issue and restored the affected posts. “We’ve restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics — not just those related to COVID-19,” Rosen explained. According to Facebook, the issue was with an automated moderation tool and was not related to any changes to its moderator workforce.

The company previously announced that it would remove false claims and conspiracy theories about coronavirus in January. Facebook also joined Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube in publishing a joint statement yesterday committing to fighting coronavirus-related fraud and misinformation.

A new report published by Ranking Digital Rights argued on Tuesday that Facebook’s current approach to moderation may not be able to address the issue of coronavirus-related misinformation on its platform.

Update March 17th, 8:07PM ET: Added context from Facebook.

Update March 17th, 9:52PM ET: Added additional context from Facebook and clarification that the company has resolved the issue. The headline has been updated to reflect this.

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