Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I have some tea and it involves Facebook and it’s policing on hate speech.
Facebook is creating a major overhaul of its algorithms that will detect hate speech. This is according to internal documents reversing years of so-called “race-blind” practices.
The overhaul, which is known as the WoW Project in its early stages, involves reengineering Facebook’s automated moderation systems to get better at detecting and automatically deleting hateful language that is considered “the worst of the worst,” according to internal documents describing the project that were published by The Washington Post; The worst kinds of comments includes slurs directed at Blacks, Muslims, people of more than one race, the LGBTQ community and Jews, according to the documents.
One way to assess the severity, Facebook assigned different types of attacks numerical scores weighted based on their “perceived” harm. For example; the company’s systems would now place a higher priority on automatically removing statements such as “Gay people are disgusting” than “Men are pigs.”
The first phase of the project, which was announced internally to a small group in October, engineers said they had changed the company’s systems to deprioritize policing contemptuous comments about “Whites,” “men” and “Americans.” Facebook still considers these such attacks to be hate speech, and users can still report it to the company. However, the company’s technology now treats them as “low-sensitivity” or less likely to be “harmful” so that they are no longer automatically deleted by the company’s algorithms. That means 10,000 fewer posts are now being deleted each day, according to the documents.
The shift is a response to a racial reckoning within the company as well as years of criticism from civil rights advocates that content from Black users is disproportionately removed, particularly when they use the platform to describe experiences of discrimination with some civil rights advocates said the change was overdue.
These practices that facebook conducted then resulted in the company being more vigilant about removing slurs lobbed against White users while flagging and deleting innocuous posts by black people on the platform.
In addition to deleting comments and protesting racism, Facebook’s approach at times resulted in a huge contrast between its automated takedowns and users actual reports about hate speech. At the height of the nationwide protests in June over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, for example, the top three derogatory terms Facebook’s automated systems removed were “white trash,” a gay slur and “cracker,” this is according to an internal chart obtained by The Washington Post and was first reported by NBC News in July. During that time period, slurs targeted at people in marginalized groups, including Blacks, Jews and transgender people, were taken down less frequently. Sally Aldous Facebook’s spokesperson said the chart, which employees posted internally in June as a critique of how Facebook excessively defends White people, helped inform the WoW project.
“We run such qualitative checks frequently to investigate and fix any unintended outcomes of our enforcements,” she said.
In July, Facebook advertisers organized a high profile boycott over civil rights issues, which had put pressure on the company to improve its treatment of marginalized groups. It was also criticized by its own independent auditors in a civil rights report, which found Facebook’s hate speech policies to be a “tremendous setback” when it came to protecting its users which are black people. More than a dozen employees have quit in protest over the company’s policies on hate speech. An African American manager filed a civil rights complaint against the company in July, alleging racial bias in recruiting and hiring.