You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Facebook Responds to Leak of Moderator Guidelines: Sometimes ‘We Get Things Wrong’

A top Facebook executive acknowledged that the social giant’s approach to what it allows on the service — including violence, self-harm, and pornography — has occasionally missed the mark, but added that it’s an enormously complicated task that the company is dedicated to improving.

Monica Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, was responding to the Guardian report Monday disclosing the company’s internal policies and procedures for dealing with a wide range of controversial subjects. According to the newspaper, it obtained more than 100 training manuals and other documents, revealing the difficult and sometimes conflicting problems involved in determining whether to delete certain posts.


According to Bickert, in an essay also published by the Guardian, Facebook strives to be on the right side of balancing competing goals, such as the tension between raising awareness of violence and promoting it. These are “complicated, philosophical questions,” she wrote. “Being as objective as we can is the only way we can be consistent across the world and in different contexts. But we still sometimes end up making the wrong call.”

Earlier this month Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after several violent videos showing murders and suicides were posted to the site, announced the company would hire 3,000 additional moderators worldwide in the next year to bring its staff that polices posts on Facebook to 7,500.

“We are making these investments because it’s the right thing to do and because we believe that the ability to share is worth protecting,” Bickert wrote.

The scale of the volume of activity on Facebook — more than 1 billion people use the service daily — makes monitoring content hard, and for the company’s reviewers there is the added difficulty is understanding the context behind a questionable post, according to Bickert. Meanwhile, there are rarely clear-cut legal standards about how to deal with such content.

“It’s hard to judge the intent behind one post, or the risk implied in another,” Bickert wrote. “Someone posts a graphic video of a terrorist attack. Will it inspire people to emulate the violence, or speak out against it?”

Facebook’s moderator guidelines sometimes appear to be counter-intuitive. For example, reviewers are allowed to leave up Facebook Live videos of people harming themselves in some cases “so that people can be alerted to help, but to take them down afterwards to prevent copycats,” Bickert wrote. She said two weeks ago a girl in Georgia attempted suicide while broadcasting on Facebook Live — and her friends notified police, who were able to reach her before she killed herself. There have been at least six other cases like that in the past few months, she added.

There are numerous other examples where context plays a critical part in determining what Facebook allows on the service. According to the documents, reviewers are instructed to delete a comment such as “Someone shoot Trump” because that is perceived to be a credible threat. But they’re advised to leave something like “I’m going to kill you” because that’s considered not credible threats but rather “a violent expression of dislike and frustration.”

“We get things wrong,” Bickert wrote, “and we’re constantly working to make sure that happens less often.”

More Digital

  • splice

    Splice Raises $57.5 Million in Latest Funding Round

    Splice, a favorite of music creators that allows access to a library of three million rights-cleared sounds, announced today that the company closed a Series C funding round at $57.5 million. That brings Splice’s total amount raised to roughly $102 million since its launch in 2013. It raised a Series B in November of 2017. [...]

  • Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime

    Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Facebook is now in the awards hunt: Its popular original series “Red Table Talk” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy. It appears to be the first-ever Daytime Emmy Awards nomination for a Facebook-funded show, although a company rep was unable to confirm that. “Red Table Talk” is nominated in [...]

  • MLB-TV

    MLB.TV Joins Lineup on Amazon's Prime Video Channels

    Amazon has launched MLB.TV on Prime Video Channels for Prime members in the U.S., just in time for the start of Major League Baseball’s 2019 regular season start next week. The MLB.TV package provides regular-season out-of-market baseball games, both live and on-demand. Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99 per month, [...]

  • Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid

    Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid First Earnings Report

    Proving that good is not always good enough, Tencent Music Entertainment shares fell 9 percent after the Chinese company released its 2018 earnings, wiping out $2.7 billion in market capitalization of what is arguably the biggest audio music service in the world. Chalk it up to big expectations and a short track record: Wednesday’s earnings [...]

  • PewDiePie - YouTube

    PewDiePie vs. T-Series: YouTube Channels Keep Battling for No. 1 Spot

    UPDATED: T-Series pulled ahead of YouTube’s PewDiePie as the No. 1 most-subscribed channel on the platform — before PewDiePie’s fans rallied once again to put him on top. In a months-long symbolic running battle for the title, PewDiePie and his fans have waged a concerted campaign to fend off the steady encroachment by T-Series, India’s top [...]

  • Netflix to Test Special Video Previews

    Netflix Will Test Character-Driven Video Previews for Its Kids Content

    Netflix is getting ready to try a new thing to help younger viewers discover new shows: The video service will start testing character-driven video previews of some of its shows later this year, executives revealed during a press event in Los Angeles Tuesday. The test, which will be rolled out on some members’ TV devices [...]

  • Epic Games Unveils $100 Million 'MegaGrants'

    Epic Games Unveils $100 Million 'MegaGrants' for Film, Game, Other Creators

    Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney kicked off the company’s annual Game Developers Conference keynote with some big news for creators: a commitment to hand out $100 million to game makers, film and TV creators, students, educators, tool developers, essentially anyone working to enhance 3D graphics and inspire creativity. The Epic MegaGrants is an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content