Facebook blocks Snopes for being spammy, unsafe

Facebook has blocked its users from sharing any links to the domain snopes.com domain. The automatic warning message says Snopes is spammy or unsafe, but it is neither.

Facebook has started blocking all links to Snopes, a reference page for stories of uncertain or questionable origin. The popular website is used for discussing and making sense of urban legends, Internet rumors, and e-mail forwards.

As you can see in the screenshot above, Facebook is blocking all URLs to the snopes.com domain for being spammy or unsafe. The social networking giant frequently blocks malicious websites to protect its users, but this seems to be an accidental block. Here is the full text of the warning message:

The content you're trying to share includes a link that's been blocked for being spammy or unsafe: snopes.com For more information, visit the Help Center. If you think you're seeing this by mistake, please let us know.

Like the message suggested at the end, I let Facebook know about this block. If you believe Snopes is a legitimate website, you can do so as well by clicking on the "let us know" link above. I have also contacted Facebook directly to find out more information about what has happened.

Two months ago, Facebook partnered with Web security gateway software company Websense to check links its users post for malware. Either Websense or the Facebook Immune System (FIS), which checks 650,000 actions every second, is most likely to blame here.

That being said, it is possible that one or more webpages on Snopes was hacked and is now serving up malware, so Facebook's systems banned it automatically. Alternatively, it's possible that a significant number of users were unhappy with the information posted on Snopes and decided to report the website as spam to win an argument on the social network.

Until I see proof otherwise, I believe this block was made in error by Facebook's automatic security systems. As you can see below, this would not be the first time Facebook has made a mistake. I could be wrong, and Palo Alto may have an actual reason for banning Snopes, but in that case I would like to hear the details.

Although I have only posted a Snopes link to Facebook once or twice, I regularly use the website whenever I get an e-mail forward from my mother. Snopes has legitimate, well-researched information so it's a great way to quickly verify dubious information.

Update: I was right, this was a mistake on Facebook's part. "The page was was blocked in error and access has been restored," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

See also: