Facebook and Twitter expect content moderation to take a hit with fewer staff

18 Mar 2020

Image: Yui Mok/PA

Facebook, Twitter and others in Big Tech have joined forces to limit the spread of misinformation about coronavirus, but admit it will be a challenge.

Facebook and Google are among the technology firms that have joined forces to protect and inform people during the coronavirus outbreak. The group of companies, which own and run some of the world’s biggest online platforms, have said they are committed to work together and with governments in response to the pandemic.

In a joint statement, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit and YouTube said they would help ensure people could stay connected to each other during isolation as well as fight any misinformation and fraud linked to the outbreak.

‘These are unprecedented times, but the safety and security of our platform will continue’

“We are working closely together on Covid-19 response efforts,” the statement said.

“We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.

“We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Social media and search engines have already been placing official guidance from the NHS and World Health Organization at the top of search results. Other platforms have also pledged to work quickly to remove any misinformation flagged to or spotted by them which is linked to the virus.

Content moderation takes a hit

On Monday (16 March), Facebook revealed that hundreds of local support groups had been created in response to Covid-19. However, Facebook has also warned of longer response times and even mistakes in its monitoring of content during the pandemic.

The social network said that, because of reduced staff numbers due to self-isolation and some roles being more difficult to fulfil while working from home, there could be some “limitations” to its work.

“We believe the investments we’ve made over the past three years have prepared us for this situation,” the social network said.

“With fewer people available for human review, we’ll continue to prioritise imminent harm and increase our reliance on proactive detection in other areas to remove violating content. We don’t expect this to impact people using our platform in any noticeable way. That said, there may be some limitations to this approach and we may see some longer response times and make more mistakes as a result.

“These are unprecedented times, but the safety and security of our platform will continue. We are grateful to all of our teams working hard to continue doing the essential work to keep our community safe.”

‘We will not permanently suspend any accounts’

Twitter has issued a similar warning, saying it will increasingly use automation and machine learning as part of its monitoring.

“We want to be clear: while we work to ensure our systems are consistent, they can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes,” Twitter said.

“As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems. Instead, we will continue to look for opportunities to build in human review checks where they will be most impactful.”

– PA Media