It’s no secret that Facebook is probably never going to implement a Dislike button despite the fact that people have been clamoring for one for years. The very premise is against Facebook’s general modus operandi of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. If you use Facebook, then only your positive interactions will be reinforced and your negative ones, well… actually, Facebook could be saying no to negativity and blocking any comments it thinks falls into that category..
AllFacebook has been following the story of Robert Scoble, a startup liaison at Rackspace and tech blogger, who had left a Facebook comment on someone’s post about “tech blog drama.” Scroble’s full comment on the thread is below (he shared it on his Google+ account).
I’m so glad I didn’t start a media business. It’s actually really tough to get new and interesting stories and to avoid falling into drama. People forget that Techcrunch was built step-by-step as a new publishing form was taking shape. PandoDaily doesn’t have that advantage and, is, indeed, facing competition from social networks that is quite good indeed.
I no longer visit blogs. I watch Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, along with Hacker News, Techmeme, Quora. These are the new news sources.
Plus, Pando Daily actually doesn’t have enough capital to compete head on with, say, D: All Things Digital or The Verge, both of which are expanding quickly and have ecosystems behind them.
Apparently, though, Facebook didn’t much approve of that comment and he was met with the message that you see in the lead image of this article: “This comment seems irrelevant or inappropriate and can’t be posted. To avoid having your comments blocked, please make sure they contribute to the post in a positive way.”
Oddly enough, after Scoble was denied posting the comment and then mentioned that he was prevented from posting it, another Facebook user and copy-and-pasted it into their comment, which was appears to have been allowed even a mere 14 minutes after Scoble said he wasn’t permitted to post it.
Later that day, Scoble updated his Google+ post after corresponding with Facebook about the prohibited comment:
I just talked with Facebook PR about my “comment censorship issue.” They say what actually happened is my comment was classified as spam. He further said that this was a “false positive” because my comment was one that Facebook doesn’t want to block.
Turns out that my comment was blocked by Facebook’s spam classification filters and that it wasn’t blocked for what the comment said, but rather because of something unique to that message. They are looking more into it and will let me know more later, after they figure out what triggered it. Their thesis is that my comment triggered it for a few reasons:
1. I’m subscribed to @max.woolf https://www.facebook.com/max.woolf and am not a friend of his in the system. That means that the spam classification system treats comments more strictly than if we were friends.
2. My comment included three @ links. That probably is what triggered the spam classification system.
3. There might have been other things about the comment that triggered the spam system.
The PR official I talked with told me that the spam classification system has tons of algorithms that try to keep you from posting low-value comments, particularly to public accounts (er, people who have turned on subscriptions here on Facebook).
I actually appreciate that Facebook is trying to do something about comment quality. I had to recently change my privacy settings to only allow friends of friends to comment on my posts because I was getting so many poor comments on my posts (when I did that the poor quality posts instantly stopped).
The PR person also said that a team is looking into why this message got a false positive, and will be adjusting the algorithms to let messages like these get through the system.
It’s likely that other commenters were able to copy and paste his comment shortly after he was prohibited because the copied messaged didn’t have the links included.
On the one hand, I somewhat concur with Scoble that it’s nice that Facebook is trying to prevent people from trolling or spamming. Then again, though, I feel like Facebook should leave it up to users to decide if non-spam comments are worth deleting. It’s really easy for any of us to do: make that ‘x’ appear in the top-right corner of the comment box, click, confirm, poof – it’s gone. Honestly, I want to know which of my Facebook friends are acting like idiots by posting comments I don’t find relevant or even agreeable so that I can then unfriend those people.
Filtering content so that only the posts made in a “positive way” are accepted is indeed suspicious. I assume the motive for this is to keep me from seeing some idiotic or upsetting comment that could lead me to unfriend people. This pre-emptive comment censoring is not too different from the “unsubscribe” feature wherein both features protect me from being exposed to any interaction that might result in people getting unfriended.
So is that the rub, to keep people connected despite their differences? Maybe. In the end, Facebook’s attempt to preserve the peace (however artificial) helps keep the number of relationships among Facebook users up – a statistic that Facebook obviously sees as an important selling point.
It will be interesting to see future reports of how this new content moderation is deployed and whether Facebook will be able to adjust its algorithm so as to make the function accurate. Otherwise, this could be a real headache for several departments at Facebook.
Anybody out there encountered this yet? Tell us about it if you have.