Sunday, 10 February 2019

Facebook's Automated Black Holes

An increasingly common sight on Facebook - informative answers 
being deleted and stuck in the black hole of perpetual review

I'm in a number of writing communities and organisations, and often help my fellow authors by answering questions about writing, publishing, promotion, and a range of other topics. It's nice to share what we know and give others a leg up.

Recently I've started getting messages deleted by Facebook, and have noticed other authors complaining about it too. It seems to have ramped up in the last few months.

This is the typical scenario where it occurs for me. An author asks a question in a Facebook group. I answer it and include a link to an article on that subject (e.g. if someone is having a distribution issue I might link to the relevant policy; if someone want to know about book sizes then I might give them some info and link to an article on trade trim sizes for a more in-depth answer).

But more and more Facebook's algorithms block these messages, saying "it looks like potential spam" (presumably purely on the basis that it has a URL in it). The only options are "accept decision" or "request a review". The latter never does anything - they all just stay open (none of mine have ever been reviewed, presumably because there's no-one at Facebook checking them).

So we end up with useful information that answers questions being deleted, with the knock-on effect that it puts people off helping each other out: they might spend time replying and sharing a useful resource, then find there's a 50% chance some automated system will just delete it!

It seemed to begin in the last month or two, so may be a new process, but (like other 100% automated systems) it creates false positives a lot of the time, and without a working feedback system it stays broken.

The incongruity is not lost on me: Facebook accusing me of spam, while plastering adverts within my feed to a degree that I can no longer use Facebook (or Twitter) on mobile devices, only on a PC with Ublock Origin installed (so that I never see adverts!)

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!