Users attempting to comment on Facebook posts have recently been prevented from doing so, with a warning text reading, "this comment can't be posted" because it is "irrelevant or inappropriate." The issue was first discovered by Robert Scoble, when he tried to post a comment on a Facebook post written by Carnegie Mellon student Max Woolf about the nature of today's tech blogging scene, he received an odd message reading:
"This comment seems irrelevant or inappropriate and can't be posted. To avoid having comments blocked, please make sure they contribute to the post in a positive way."
Scoble posted his original comment in its entirety on his Google+ page, and it clears that the it contains no profanity or even any obvious argumentative language.
Facebook says its intention is to bar spammy or abusive commenters. Scoble's comment was specifically blocked because of its length, and the length of the comment thread it was on.
"Long and popular threads are particularly attractive to spammers as they provide the largest distribution for whatever content is being spammed. Facebook also may block other types of comments that go against positive conversation, such as some ASCII art. Other factors may include who you're commenting on, how long the comment is, and who is commenting," the company said. Sentiment itself is not considered, the company says.
A Facebook policy spokesperson emailed the following explanation:
"To protect the millions of people who connect and share on Facebook every day, we have automated systems that work in the background to maintain a trusted environment and protect our users from bad actors who often use links to spread spam and malware. These systems are so effective that most people who use Facebook will never encounter spam. They're not perfect, though, and in rare instances they make mistakes. This comment was mistakenly blocked as spammy, and we have already started to make adjustments to our classifier. We look forward to learning from rare cases such as these to make sure we don't repeat the same mistake in the future.
For more information about our spam prevention systems, please see this blog post: https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=403200567130."
Here's what Facebook's told to Scoble:
Facebook PR responds.
I just talked with Facebook PR about my "comment censorship issue." They say what actually happened is my comment was classified as spam. He further said that this was a "false positive" because my comment was one that Facebook doesn't want to block.
Turns out that my comment was blocked by Facebook's spam classification filters and that it wasn't blocked for what the comment said, but rather because of something unique to that message. They are looking more into it and will let me know more later, after they figure out what triggered it. Their thesis is that my comment triggered it for a few reasons:
1. I'm subscribed to @max.woolf https://www.facebook.com/max.woolf and am not a friend of his in the system. That means that the spam classification system treats comments more strictly than if we were friends.
2. My comment included three @ links. That probably is what triggered the spam classification system.
3. There might have been other things about the comment that triggered the spam system.
The PR official I talked with told me that the spam classification system has tons of algorithms that try to keep you from posting low-value comments, particularly to public accounts (er, people who have turned on subscriptions here on Facebook).
I actually appreciate that Facebook is trying to do something about comment quality. I had to recently change my privacy settings to only allow friends of friends to comment on my posts because I was getting so many poor comments on my posts (when I did that the poor quality posts instantly stopped).
The PR person also said that a team is looking into why this message got a false positive, and will be adjusting the algorithms to let messages like these get through the system.
Also, the error message made it sound like the message was blocked because of the content of the message, not because it looked spammy. They are looking into the wording of the error and will update that to make the error clearer as to what's going on and why the spam classification system got kicked in.
More as I learn more.
In other Facebook news, the company has acquired Highlight competitor and ambient location app "Glancee."
Facebook said in a statement "We are thrilled to confirm that Facebook has acquired Glancee. The acquisition closed today. We can't wait for co-founders Andrea, Alberto and Gabriel to join the Facebook team to work on products that help people discover new places and share them with friends."
Glancee on its homepage now showing the message:
We started Glancee in 2010 with the goal of bringing together the best of your physical and digital worlds. We wanted to make it easy to discover the hidden connections around you, and to meet interesting people. Since then Glancee has connected thousands of people, empowering serendipity and pioneering social discovery.
We are therefore very excited to announce that Facebook has acquired Glancee and that we have joined the team in Menlo Park to build great products for over 900 million Facebook users. We've had such a blast connecting people through Glancee, and we truly thank our users for being a part of the Glancee community.
If you are a Glancee user, download your data. If you want to connect with us, send us an email.
Also, Facebook has updated its Messenger app for iOS and Android with the ability to see if someone's read your message, and easier ways to tell if someone's typing and where they're messaging from.
Facebook Messenger "read receipts" are even easier to understand than those on BlackBerry Messenger, and they work for group messaging too. The apps now display "Seen by ……" right under a sent message.
"Text groups of friends for free with Facebook Messenger. Reach Facebook friends wherever they are now - on their phones or the web," reads the app description. Here are the feautes:
- Text a friend or start a group conversation
- Get free push notifications so you never miss a message
- Access chats and messages as seamless conversations -- wherever you log into Facebook
- Know who's seen your message, and who hasn't
- Include your location and share photos
Now it's even easier to reach groups of friends on the go:
- Text friends for free, using your existing data plan
- Reach friends wherever they are now - on their phone or the web
- Know who's seen your message, and who hasn't
- See where friends are messaging you from
- Typing indicator - see when your friend is replying