Facebook has confirmed a bug in its spam filter removed posts incorrectly from the social network, including legitimate news articles about coronavirus.
Multiple users reported receiving alerts from Facebook saying their posts – often news stories from trusted sources about the spread of Covid-19 – had been marked as spam by the site and taken down.
Facebook’s Guy Rosen then confirmed on Twitter that the problem was “a bug in an anti-spam system”.
He denied suggestions the fault had been caused by Facebook relying more on artificial intelligence and automation for content moderation after it sent staff home as part of social distancing efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
Shortly afterwards, Rosen – the social network’s vice president of integrity – said the problem had been resolved.
“We’ve restored all the posts that were incorrectly removed, which included posts on all topics – not just those related to Covid-19,” he said.
“This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites, but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts too.”
The incident comes after Facebook joined with other tech giants, including Google, Microsoft and forums such as Reddit to commit to working together to fight the virus.
The firms said they would help people stay connected during social distancing as well as work together to fight disinformation, fraud and conspiracy theories linked to the outbreak.
Social media, the government and the NHS have all warned about the spread of disinformation online, with platforms banning adverts and posts which promise cures to the virus, spread panic or make false claims about cases.
The NHS has previously highlighted a fake Twitter account which had posed as a hospital and posted misleading messages about cases of coronavirus before it was removed by Twitter.
Facebook, Google and Twitter all now show official NHS and government guidance on Covid-19 at the top of search results about the outbreak to help what the government called “good advice” to reach people.
Neighbourhood connection app Nextdoor has also updated its flagging tool so that any posts which are flagged as misleading and are linked to Covid-19 are reviewed immediately by its content moderation team.
In response to the ongoing threat of misleading content appearing online, the government has launched a specialist unit which is working with social media companies to monitor and remove coronavirus disinformation.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?