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Facebook says pandemic hampered effort to take down suicide, self-injury posts

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By Jon Swartz


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Facebook Inc. is blaming COVID-19 for impeding its ability to remove suicide and self-injury posts from its platforms.

When Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -1.73%  sent its moderators home in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it took action on significantly less material containing such content between April and June, according to the company’s latest community standards report issued Tuesday.

Some 911,000 pieces of content related to suicide and self-injury received attention in the three-month period, compared with 1.7 million in the previous quarter. On Instagram, steps were taken against 275,000 posts, versus 1.3 million before.

“Today’s report shows the impact of Covid-19 on our content moderation and demonstrates that, while our technology for identifying and removing violating content is improving, there will continue to be areas where we rely on people to both review content and train our technology,” the company said in a blog post Tuesday.

Shares of Facebook are flat in late-afternoon trading.

Facebook said it has since brought “many reviewers back online from home” and, where it is safe, a “smaller number into the office.”

Highlights of the report included metrics across 12 policies on Facebook and 10 policies on Instagram. Among them:

— Facebook said it had removed 7 million posts that shared false information about coronavirus, including content that promoted fake preventative measures and exaggerated cures.

— The company said it removed about 8.7 million pieces of content characterized as terrorism, up from 6.3 million in the previous quarter. Instagram removed about 388,800 pieces of terrorist content, down from 440,600 in the first quarter,

— Despite the impact of COVID-19, Facebook said technology improvements let it “take action on more content in some areas, and increase our proactive detection rate in others.” The detection rate for hate speech increased to 95% from 89%, and the amount of content in which Facebook took action jumped to 22.5 million in the second quarter from 9.6 million in the first quarter.

/zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 248.15
-4.38 -1.73%
Volume: 24.71M
Sept. 21, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
30.31
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$719.41 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.57M
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Jon Swartz is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco, covering many of the biggest players in tech, including Netflix, Facebook and Google. Jon has covered technology for more than 20 years, and previously worked for Barron's and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @jswartz.

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