Technical evangelist Robert Scoble today wanted to respond to a Facebook post by Carnegie Mellon student Max Woolf about PandoDaily (here) but Facebook blocked him from posting his comment. The social networking giant's algorithms detected the comment as negative and gave the following error (pictured above):
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.
Scoble postulates that Facebook is performing real-time content analysis before it lets you post a comment. Here's the comment in question:
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.
One would assume that this has something do with Facebook's Page moderation system. Here's the corresponding entry on the Facebook Help Center:
How can I proactively moderate content posted on my Page? You can add comma-separated keywords to the moderation blocklist in order to prevent them from appearing on your Page. When people include blacklisted keywords in a post or comment on your Page, the content will be automatically marked as spam.
To add keywords to the blacklist:
- Open your Page's admin panel
- Click Manage
- Select Edit Page
- From the Manage Permissions tab, enter the terms you want to block in the Moderation Blocklist field, separated by commas
To unmark a post as spam, locate it in your Page's activity log, click the icon and select Unmark as Spam. To unmark a comment as spam, locate the comment on your Page, move your cursor over it and click on the X that appears. You can then click the Unmark as Spam link.
There are two problems with this theory. First off, this is Woolf's Timeline profile, not a Facebook Page. Secondly, I posted Scoble's comment on Woolf's thread: here. Either Scoble is lying and the comment in question is something else (very unlikely) or Facebook's algorithm just had a serious glitch (very likely).
Bug or not, this is still a worrying development. The fact is that functionality is there: the above error message was coded for a reason. It's quite clear to me that the comment doesn't contain any profanity or even suggestive language. In fact, it's a lengthy comment that arguably contains a valuable opinion, as opposed to say, a few words pasted over and over.
I was asked to specifically point out, however that many ZDNet bloggers would love to see this message appear before some of our readers who troll the Talkback section. Personally, I don't really care.
In the meantime, I have contacted Facebook and will update you if I hear back.
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