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Facebook Content Approvals In A Tailspin Due To COVID-19

Facebook's Blocking & Banning Users For Sharing Guardian Posts

Facebook approvals for content are a challenge at the best of times.

However, presently for publishers and marketers alike, producing and scheduling content feels like a daily spin on the roulette wheel.

For not only are there issues galore with content approvals, but the pointy end of Facebook's buggy moderating systems are handing out banning orders and account suspensions without dropping a beat.

Case in point, the image above. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

At the weekend, The Guardian reported that Facebook incorrectly removed a post critical of the Australian prime minister's recent comments regarding slavery in Australia. The post which featured a photograph of Aboriginal men in neck chains from the late 1800s was removed by Facebook claiming the photo featured nudity.

Facebook then subsequently blocked, and even banned, users who tried to share a Guardian article (linked above) related to the original story. According to The Guardian:

"Dozens of Guardian readers have since reported that when they tried to post a link to the article on their profiles they received a message that the post violated the same community standards.

The man who first posted the image to his profile was among those unable to share the news article.

Several readers were even banned from posting on Facebook for up to 30 days for attempting to share the article."

Eventually, following several more mea culpas from Facebook, the issue appears to have been cleared up.

However, this speedy resolution is almost entirely due to the weight that The Guardian brings, rather than Facebook addressing the underlying problems within Facebook's moderation processes, which cast marketers and communicators into social media purgatory daily.

Facebook Approvals & Moderation Woes

Even before COVID-19 struck, Facebook approvals could be erratic.

However, with usage surging and misinformation exploding related to the global health crisis, Facebook has found itself in even more of a pickle.

Layer over that, trying to manage 45,000 staff mainly working from home and its easy to see why Facebook is one big, buggy, mess at the moment.

Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook Head of Health, March 2020

"We use a combination of people and technology to review ads on Facebook and Instagram, and our automated systems already play a big role in that process. Now with a reduced and remote workforce, we're relying on automated technology even more."

Facebook, at the time, went on to explain that for advertisers this would likely cause:

  • Delayed review for ads and commerce listings 
  • An increase in ads being incorrectly disapproved
  • Delayed or reduced appeals
  • More limited availability of Facebook in-stream ads and lower delivery

Naturally, Facebook could also hire an adequate volume of moderators, to go alongside all of the content that it profitably monetises (as could YouTube and the rest). Although to do so at a suitable level would be… unprofitable.

Ergo, let's just stick with the inadequate machine learning instead, and not worry too much about the genocide.

Facebook Page Quality & Appeals

At the beginning of last year, Facebook introduced a new page feature related to its community standards called Page Quality.

The Page Quality tab was designed to help people who manage Pages understand how well their Pages comply with Facebook's guidelines. The tab includes information related to:

  • Recent Community Standards violations
  • Content shared by your Page that's been rated by third-party fact-checkers
  • Intellectual property rights violations
  • Content shared by your Page that's been identified as clickbait
  • Violations for sharing too much content from other sources
  • Events take-downs
  • Job postings shared by your Page that's been identified as misleading, deceptive or fraudulent

Below the Page Quality section, you can see a header displaying the status of your Page.

The heading is green, yellow or red to reflect no violations, some violations, at risk of being unpublished or unpublished states.

While it is obviously a good idea to keep a watchful eye on this, it is also worth noting that there can still be risky issues bubbling outside of this.

Page Quality doesn't include all areas of Community Standards and Page policy violations. There may still be violations from your Page that Page Quality doesn't reflect yet, such as violations of Facebook's broader Page Policies.

The issues highlighted by the Guardian's plight above are not isolated events. Therefore, Page managers and advertisers would be wise to tread gently, follow Facebook's shifting policies, and get familiar with Facebook's appeals processes.

You'll probably need them one day.

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