With over 1.5 billion users, Facebook is a teeming digital place. And so it is perhaps unsurprising that it teems with posts that piss other users off. This fact, which likely comports with every single user's individual experience, was highlighted last weekend when Facebook's head of policy management, Monika Bickert, confirmed the social network receives over a million reports of "violations" from its users every day. So reports CNN Money, which noted Bickert explained that despite the sheer volume of complaints, she believes it's vital to have a human person reviewing them.
"When it comes to hate speech, it's so contextual," said Bickert. "We think it's really important for people to be making that decision."
The discussion took place at a SXSW panel focused on online harassment. Titled the Online Harassment Summit, the daylong March 12 event was a scrambled damage-control response by the for-profit organization after it was widely condemned for canceling two sessions focusing on online harassment because of — you guessed it — harassment.
"[In] the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming," SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest wrote in a widely criticized explanation last October for the initial decision to cancel the sessions. "Maintaining civil and respectful dialogue within the big tent is more important than any particular session."
Facebook's Bickert further noted that the company is working to create a space that is respective of free speech, and yet the platform must obviously remain appealing to advertisers.
"You can criticize institutions, religions, and you can engage in robust political conversation," she explained. "But what you can't do is cross the line into attacking a person or a group of people based on a particular characteristic."
This topic, especially where it relates to photos being flagged by users for removal, was taken up by the (very excellent) podcast Radiolab a year ago, and Facebook engineers there discussed the ways in which they learned how to direct users to deal directly with friends who posted photos they didn't like rather than telling the company's over-taxed moderators to deal with it for them.
The number of flagged violations has been "steadily increasing" according to Bickert, and will likely continue to do so now that users can flag content from all devices. And just like the rest of the internet, Facebook is likely to remain a contentions, ALL CAPS-FILLED place for a long time to come.