back to article Hundreds of Facebook moderators complain: AI content moderation isn't working and we're paying for it

Facebook’s AI algorithms aren’t effective enough to automatically screen for violent images or child abuse, leaving the job to human moderators who are complaining about having to come into an office to screen harmful content during the coronavirus pandemic. In an open letter to the social media giant, over 200 content …

  1. quartzz

    1 - primary function - sell user data to marketing

    2 - "everything else" - generally an annoying secondary consideration

    the moderaters aren't the core of the business....they are an additional department that has had to be brought in, to facilitate '1'

    1. schmeckles65

      Couldn't have put it better myself! It's merely an inconvenience for them.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Money talks

      It would interesting to see the internal development budget for AI usage. Something like:

      Improving AI for moderating nasty content: $10,000,000

      Improving AI for targeted advertisements: $10,000,000,000

      (Their annual revenue being $70,000,000,000, these numbers are not ridiculous.)

      1. quartzz

        Re: Money talks

        I mean absolutely. I'm sure there is some very 'interesting' image recognit going on to detect what's in the photo's. when fb had that hiccup and images were replaced by text descriptions for a few hours

        "we have text descripts for the hard of seeing"

        rule number 4 in doing stuff: always have a semi-plausible explanation, for doing something you don't want them to know about

        also when I say 'everything else' there.....that includes actually having a website in the first place (this comment was prompted by facebooks recent 'facelift', which does less than it did before). tbh, I'm sure facebook's ideal business model, would be

        "just send us your data. have a logo'd pencil that you have to leave on the premesis"

        that way they wouldn't have the resource drain of actually having to maintain a website

    3. Thicko

      I guess they will only be needed until the algorithms can replace them so why invest in them, they are just expendable meat bags from the FB investor point of view.

  2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Think of the little Zuck

    Treating his drones fairly would cut in to his pocket money. The poor poppet

  3. Andre Carneiro

    Living hell

    Seriously. Being stuck at home during a global pandemic, watching the worst of the worst that humanity has to offer.... I cannot find a better definition of living hell.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Living hell

      And that is without even getting as far as the violent content and child abuse.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Another What a World post...

    What a shitty job to have. The world isn't more of a cesspool now, it's just televised more... What a shitty job trying to censor that.

    Oh, what a world indeed!

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: Another What a World post...

      Yes it's shitty, but what exactly does a "full Facebook staff" member do? Sure there's network, db and cleaning people, but outside of that isn't being a content moderator for FB kinda _THE_ job there? Surely without these people FB would have a watered down mix of KKK and Flat-Earthers diluting the spy sales data, so it seems these people should be paid well and, they undoubtedly know what FB is better than anyone so ignoring/irritating them seems like a very bad idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another What a World post...

        but what exactly does a "full Facebook staff" member do?

        All that lovely user data doesn't sell itself you know!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another What a World post...

          It pretty much does, actually.

          Facebook doesn't seem to have salescritters, only lobbyists.

  5. schmeckles65

    Ruining Pages

    Or... They are ruining pages for "false positives", I run a news page with a website to go with it. We posted a few photos of another Social Media user inciting some violence and Facebook assumed it was us inciting the violence.

    So now we have non-appealable strikes on the page, Instant Articles removed which has completely nulled the income from that specific page.

    Guess why we can't appeal? Because they have limited staff during the coronavirus pandemic, we even contacted support and because I am no longer a partner with Facebook Monetisation they refuse to help.

    So to conclude, AI moderation is working too well for them - Why employ more staff when you can just take the majority vote from the trusted social media users and remove content and punish people in the process.

    Get enough reports on a post and the chances are high that the AI will bite you. I've come to the conclusion that from some of the responses from "support" the majority of their system is run from automated AI messages.

    1. fireflies

      Re: Ruining Pages

      I can empathise with that - Facebook decided that my identity needed to be checked into... forget the fact I've existed on Facebook for well over 10 years and paid money for advertising... they needed to see a copy of my driving license.

      So fine, I send the copy straight away - but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, "it may take longer than usual to review your account."

      Longer than usual is now approaching 6 months and 2 weeks.

      In other words, a Facebook account of good standing has been blocked for over half a year.

      Whatever Facebook are doing, they don't care about the impact on individuals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ruining Pages

        Sucker! They just wanted a government proof that their profile on you is correct.

        1. quartzz

          Re: Ruining Pages

          well.....'sucker' "?" (but I agree with the reason)....as in half the sites that are getting cr@pper and cr@pper are relying on the fact that people already have built-up profiles that they don't want trashed

          1) site exists

          2) people use it

          3) people build up a profile over time

          4) site infrastructure does not keep up with the increase in user numbers

          5) site performance and useability gets less and less. site requirements might actually increase (while infrastructure doesn't) because it encounters new competition from other sites and has to introduce new features

          6) people only continue using the site because they have already put time/effort into building up their profile

          I also reckon there might be some silicon valley ego stuff....facebook and insta's s/w engineers get together over lunch, and boast about how their user numbers are going up despite rubbish interface

        2. fireflies

          Re: Ruining Pages

          That's all well and good, but how does it benefit them to have government proof if by the time these accounts are resolved, their owners are no longer using them because who wants to wait 6 months or longer?

          I expect most people would bite the bullet and just create a new account, which means their government certified account falls by the wayside.

          If they disincentivise people complying with their confirmed identification process, they will struggle to police fake account creations and service will decline accordingly.

  6. werdsmith Silver badge

    Faecebook. Is it still here?

    Ugh.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Not for much longer if they lose the people who keep the business legal.

    2. CrackedNoggin

      According to AOC, talking about why Dems lost so many house seats this time - "Some of this is criminal. It’s malpractice. Conor Lamb spent $2,000 on Facebook the week before the election. I don’t think anybody who is not on the internet in a real way in the Year of our Lord 2020 and loses an election can blame anyone else when you’re not even really on the internet. And I’ve looked through a lot of these campaigns that lost, and the fact of the matter is if you’re not spending $200,000 ... you're not firing on all cylinders". [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/07/us/politics/aoc-biden-progressives.html]

      Also, "Since the beginning of this election cycle in 2019, [AOC]’s spent $3.6 million on Facebook ads, including nearly $2.4 million since January, according to her campaign." [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/us/politics/aoc-facebook-ads.html ].

      It's official - the USA's star progressive is a tributary (one of many) of Facebook paying monetary tribute to the emporor - and not doing so would be "criminal" and "malpractice". Zuckerberg has apparently found a better alternative to becoming president.

  7. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I've often wondered if I would have the mental strength to do this kind of job. Quite possibly I would to begin with, but who knows after time. Who could take a job not knowing if they can do it for the long term, especially in this economic climate.

    Anyone who does do this kind of job should be paid handsomely and supported in whatever way they can. There should be no question over either of those. I can never see AI having the insight to work properly ever. It's not like Facebook can't afford to pay people, so there really should no longer be questions over this.

    1. theOtherJT

      "There should be no question over either of those"

      But neither of them are the case, believe me. I've had some very limited experience of this. Many years ago between college and landing my first IT gig, I was a temp who got assigned to work for the police doing criminal records checks.

      Yes, that's right, if you were applying to work with children back in the mid 2000s, your background check was done by a bunch of burned out 23 year old temps because there weren't enough police officers to do it. I say "Burned out" because the longest anyone I met there had managed to stay on the job was about 4 months before it totally broke them and they quit.

      I don't actually remember how long I worked there now, It feels like about 30 years, although it can't have been more than a few weeks, but just having to read some of the things I read there would have stopped me sleeping - were it not for the fact that I was doing the 10pm to 6am shift, so sleep was something of a rarity anyway. I don't think I would have lasted that long if we'd had to see video and picture evidence too, but if we ran across anything that came with details like that we were required to flag it to go to an actual police officer and move on to the next one.

      The summary text records were enough for me. There is no amount you could pay me to get me to go back and do that again.

      1. LoPath
        Meh

        Re: "There should be no question over either of those"

        I knew a guy that used to do background investigations for the US Dept of Defense. His job was to go to people's houses and interview them. They would interview the employee and their relatives, friends, business associates, etc. He told many stories about weirdos inviting him down to their basement, answering the door in a bathrobe, and other oddities.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    Pick one

    This

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/11/facebook-touts-enforcement-amid-investigations-moderator-complaints/

    Or this:

    https://www.theregister.com/2020/11/21/hundreds_of_facebook_moderators_complained/

    Both cannot be true, or can they?

    1. CrackedNoggin

      Re: Pick one

      All truths are thruthy (and falsey), but some are more truthy (and less falsey) than others.

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: Pick one

      Well just look at the domain names, one of them is a well known IT site with techy readership and the other one is Ars. From there it should be simple to discern which article is true.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Watch Zuck testimony to Congress

    last week. It is highly enlightening. I'm sure that he's hoping that Trump gets sworn in on 20th Jan. He has a big campaingn contribution that needs payback.

    Fartbook is evil. It is highly addictive by design. stop using the thing. The same goes with all so called social media platforms.

    They want you to get hooked and stay with them for life.

    How is this any different to your local friendly corner drug dealer? Answer... there isn't.

    We existed for milennia without the curse of social media. We can exist without it.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Watch Zuck testimony to Congress

      It's not social media that's addictive, it's social interaction. And we've been addicted to it for millennia.

  10. W Donelson

    From MIT in 1971, here is a 4 line story showing how hard AI really is:

    1. John goes into a restaurant

    2. He orders lobster

    3. He pays his bill and leaves

    Now, what did John eat?

    No AI is remotely close yet to answering this, even 50 years later, but it's easily answered by a 4 year old child

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Failed Turing test?

      Well, I tried that on jabberwacky.com, and I have to agree it didn't go too well:

      Who are you?

      John goes into a restaurant.

      You should try escargot.

      He orders lobster.

      Lobsters aren't that cool.

      He pays his bill and leaves.

      But dave is a statue.

      Now, what did John eat?

      I can't tell you - spies are everywhere.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unsafe working environment

    Sue!

    Then put up nasty shit about Zuck.

    Turnabout is fair play....

    Pricks.

  12. steviebuk Silver badge

    Algorithms

    Is it like the algorithm that was used for the exam marking this year or the one used by a Paris based health firm Nabla as reported in The Private Eye. It was going to be used for bookings and advice but was very poor on the advice. Upon being asked diagnosis conditions when given a set of symptoms it ignored some and made up others. During these Covid times its worse. In the area of mental health it was asked "Should I kill myself?" It replied "I think you should".

  13. Jonjonz

    Those moderators just don't get it. They are a PR pantomime the motherzuker can trot out when 'grilled' by beltway types in one of their dog and pony shows.

    They can't be a very bright bunch.

  14. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Isn't the AI training database itself a felony?

    FB must possess a large collection of child sexual abuse images in order to train its AI. Indeed, given FB's "collect all the data about all the things" obsession, it's very possible that FB has amassed the world's largest repository of CSA images. Possession of such images is a felony basically everywhere. Hmmm.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Isn't the AI training database itself a felony?

      "FB must possess a large collection of child sexual abuse images in order to train its AI. Indeed, given FB's "collect all the data about all the things" obsession, it's very possible that FB has amassed the world's largest repository of CSA images. Possession of such images is a felony basically everywhere. Hmmm."

      Unless FB is a data harvesting front for a joint funded NSA/CIA program?

      Oops, what's that coming over the hill?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet they can 'AI' track every photo...

    ... to identify your face and background scenery in order to sell you stuff.

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