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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Facebook's Unglamorous Mistakes

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An illustration of a spinning wheel shows randomness of Facebook decisions about content.

The Wall Street Journal calculated that Facebook might make roughly 200,000 wrong calls a day.

Credit: Irene Suosalo

Social networks are essential public spaces that are too big and fast-moving for anyone to effectively manage. Wrong calls happen. For instance, in a Facebook gardening group, the platform's automated systems sometimes flagged discussions about a common backyard tool as inappropriate sexual talk. And, the organization (now Meta) once froze the accounts of some Native Americans because its computers mistakenly believed that names such as Lance Browneyes were fake.

These unglamorous mistakes aren't as momentous as deciding whether Meta should kick the former U.S. president off its website. But ordinary people, businesses, and groups serving the public interest suffer when social networks cut off their accounts and they can't find help or figure out what they did wrong.

Meta—and its peers— could do far more to make fewer mistakes and mitigate the harm when it does mess up.

From The New York Times
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