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.
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
Here are a few examples of affected Facebook posts:
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
Then my link to the Canadian gov’s website about EI was removed too. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/tFAUqLzHus
Incredible. @Facebook said my post of this Dallas Morning News article highlighting that two people in their 20s and 30s are in critical care in Dallas County and that young people aren’t invincible went against their guidelines and was removed.https://t.co/HqoIdzzcSi— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) March 17, 2020
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.
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
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.