It’s official and patented: Facebook is that company that engages in censorship utilizing a practice known as shadowbanning.
Facebook has applied for a patent on this particular, very controversial online moderating practice – and the US Patent and Trademark Office has now granted the request.
There’s no doubt that this patent being granted will boost the argument of conservatives who claim to be the victims of shadowbanning, i.e., censorship of free speech by social media giants, on ideological grounds.
From the patent:
“The social networking system may receive a list of proscribed content and block comments containing the proscribed content by reducing the distribution of those comments to other viewing users. However, the social networking system may display the blocked content to the commenting user such that the commenting user is not made aware that his or her comment was blocked, thereby providing fewer incentives to the commenting user to spam the page or attempt to circumvent the social networking system filters.”
In the summary of the patent case Facebook describes how shadowbanning works: comments are analyzed for content and sentiments that are prohibited by the social network, such as profanities, or racist, derogatory, “or negative” remarks.
And while such comments will still be visible to the author – and in some cases, their friends – “the social networking system will not display the comment to other users.”
Facebook added that it may also “train a machine learning classifier to block comments based on moderator actions of manually deleting comments or unblocking comments in the online forum.”
This leaves the author unaware of the fact others can’t see their comment, the summary continues. Moreover – “in other instances, should a user be deemed a repeat offender, the forum display may not include the comment input text box to prevent the user from trying to spam the forum.”
Facebook’s recent ramping up of efforts to eliminate “borderline” content – presumably, content not actually banned by the social media giant’s own rules, but still unwelcome on the platform.
Facebook’s image-sharing arm, Instagram, has been introducing features like “AI-powered anti-bullying” and now, something that seems to be covered by the newly-granted patent: allowing users to “restrict” other accounts, and hide comments from everyone but the author.