Facebook removing sexism and hate speech posts - but finding it difficult

Getting rid of racist, sexist and other hateful remarks on Facebook is more challenging than weeding out other types of unacceptable posts because computer programs still stumble over the nuances of human language, the company revealed overnight NZT.

Facebook also released statistics that quantified how pervasive fake accounts have become on its influential service, despite a long-standing policy requiring people to set up accounts under their real-life identities.

From October to December alone, Facebook disabled nearly 1.3 billion accounts - and that doesn't even count all the times the company blocked bogus profiles before they could be set up.

Had the company not shut down all those fake accounts, its audience of monthly users would have swelled beyond its current 2.2 billion and probably created more potentially offensive material for Facebook to weed out.

Facebook's self-assessment showed its screening system is far better at scrubbing graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and terrorist propaganda. Automated tools detected 86 percent to 99.5 percent of the violations Facebook identified in those categories.

For hate speech, Facebook's human reviewers and computer algorithms identified just 38 percent of the violations. The rest came after Facebook users flagged the offending content for review.

All told, Facebook took action on nearly 1.6 billion pieces of content during the six months ending in March, a tiny fraction of all the activity on its social network, according to the company.

The report marked Facebook's first breakdown on how much material it removes for violating its policies. It didn't disclose how long it takes Facebook to remove material violating its standards. The report also doesn't cover how much inappropriate content Facebook missed.

"Even if they remove 100 million posts that are offensive, there will be one or two that have some really bad stuff and those will be the ones everyone winds up talking about on the cable-TV news," said Timothy Carone, who teaches about technology at the University of Notre Dame.

The report also doesn't address how Facebook is tacking another vexing issue - the proliferation of fake news stories planted by Russian agents and other fabricators trying to sway elections and public opinion.

Fake accounts on Facebook have been drawing more attention because Russian agents used them to buy ads to try to influence the 2016 election in the U.S.

Even though it has been focusing on shutting down bogus accounts, Facebook has said that 3 to 4 percent of its active monthly users are fake. That means as many as 88 million fake Facebook accounts were still slipping through the cracks in the company's policing system through March.

It's not surprising that Facebook's automated programs have the greatest difficulty trying to figure out differences between permissible opinions and despicable language that crosses the line, Carone said.

"It's like trying to figure out the equivalent between screaming 'Fire!' in a crowded theater when there is none and the equivalent of saying something that is uncomfortable but qualifies as free speech," he said.

Facebook said it removed 2.5 million pieces of content deemed unacceptable hate speech during the first three months of this year, up from 1.6 million during the previous quarter. The company credited better detection, even as it said computer programs have trouble understanding context and tone of language.

Facebook took down 3.4 million pieces of graphic violence during the first three months of this year, nearly triple the 1.2 million during the previous three months. In this case, better detection was only part of the reason. Facebook said users were more aggressively posting images of violence in places like war-torn Syria.

The increased transparency comes as the Menlo Park, California, company tries to make amends for a privacy scandal triggered by loose policies that allowed a data-mining company with ties to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign to harvest personal information on as many as 87 million users.

The content screening has nothing to do with privacy protection, though, and is aimed at maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere for users and advertisers.



Meghan Markle's father reportedly to undergo heart surgery, won't be able to attend daughter's wedding to Prince Harry

Meghan Markle’s father will reportedly not be able to walk her down the aisle because he is scheduled to undergo heart surgery.

Thomas Markle, who told TMZ this morning that he changed his mind and wanted to attend the wedding after yesterday saying he would not go, is scheduled to undergo surgery in the early hours of Thursday morning (Wednesday morning LA time).

FILE - In this April 25, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend a Service of Thanksgiving and Commemoration on ANZAC Day at Westminster Abbey in London. The couple will wed on May 19. (Eddie Mulholland/Pool via AP, File)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were reportedly devastated over Thomas Markle's decision to not attend the wedding before his change of heart. Source: Associated Press

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"They will go in and clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed," Thomas Markle told the celebrity news website.

Last week, Mr Markle reportedly suffered a heart attack and was then hospitalised this morning (NZ time) with chest pain.

In an earlier report, Mr Markle said his daughter had tried to call him on Tuesday but he didn't have his phone on him, according to the celebrity news site.

He said she also texted saying she loved him and was concerned about his health.

Mr Markle said Meghan was not upset after his staged paparazzi photos. He was reportedly so upset by the reaction the photos that he decided to not attend the wedding.

He also said he didn’t think the Queen would be bothered by the photos.

"I don't think the Queen is thinking about what I'm doing."

"I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle."

If doctors allowed him out of hospital, Mr Markle said he will travel to England for the wedding.

Yesterday, Prince Harry and Ms Markle requested "understanding and respect" for her father after the celebrity news site reported he would not be coming to the royal wedding to walk his daughter down the aisle.

Thomas Markle's decision is a bombshell for the bride-to-be. Source: 1 NEWS

Yesterday’s palace statement on the "difficult situation" did not confirm the TMZ report that Thomas Markle had decided not to attend. 

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North Korea threatens to cancel Trump and Kim Jong Un's summit over US-South Korea military exercises

North Korea cancelled a high-level meeting today with South Korea and threatened also to call off a historic summit planned later this month with the United States due to ongoing military exercises between the South and the US, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

The two Koreas were set to hold a meeting later today at a border truce village to discuss setting up military and Red Cross talks aimed at reducing border tension and restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War.

The President took to Twitter to saw they would try make it a "special moment" for world peace.
Source: 1 NEWS

But hours before the meeting was to take place, Pyongyang cancelled the meeting and also questioned whether next month's talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump would happen, Yonhap reported, citing North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.

"The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities," KCNA reported.

The two-week military exercise between the US and South Korea started Friday and included about 100 warplanes, Yonhap said.

Yesterday, South Korea's military said North Korea was moving ahead with plans to close its nuclear test site next week, an assessment backed by US researchers who say satellite images show the North has begun dismantling facilities at the site.

The site's closure was set to come before Kim and Trump's summit, which had been shaping up to be a crucial moment in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.


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