Facebook is infamous for relying on algorithms to sort out the real meaning and context of content posted by the social giant’s billions of users every day. In addition, the company bases its often controversial and questionable, or sometimes just plain nonsensical censorship decisions not only on this insufficiently good technology, but also on the opinion of human moderators.
And sometimes it’s a case of Facebook failing to properly interpret its own community guidelines.
An educational breast cancer awareness video originating in Northern Ireland was recently caught in this “moderating” mess and it’s not entirely clear who or what over at Facebook is to blame.
The video, posted by Cancer Network Northern Ireland, a charity, was educational in nature, meant to instruct women on how to discover cancer signs and symptoms early, and help raise funds for cancer victims. And according to its makers, the video and the accompanying infographic were very unlikely to trigger any nudity censorship as they were done “inoffensively and tastefully,” using a plastic model.
It wasn’t of much help, either, that the video was presented by broadcaster Rebecca McKinney and that its goal was clearly to raise awareness about a dangerous disease – nor that this awareness is still sorely needed, given the number of new cases discovered every year.
But Facebook apparently switched into prudishness overdrive mode, banning the video for promoting nudity, which the company doesn’t allow on its platform. However, Facebook then changed its mind, lifting the ban and reinstating the video, also announcing that the original decision was made in error – and apologizing.
However, Cancer Network Northern Ireland’s chief executive Roisin Foster is not entirely convinced, and it doesn’t seem to be entirely clear to her what actually happened and why the social media giant censored this content in the first place. The reason is that when Facebook initially banned the video, it informed the charity that “some audiences are sensitive to different things when it comes to nudity.”
“It isn’t quite accurate to say that the video was removed in error as it didn’t appear on Facebook when we tried to post it and it was also turned down as a paid for advert,” Foster explained, adding, “Facebook informed us that the video didn’t meet their standards.”
While the charity is satisfied that it can continue promoting its cause of saving lives and fundraising on social media platforms with such wide reach, they regret having had to go “to these lengths to ensure the video was publicized.”