Petition update

Our answer to Facebook's response

The worldwide community of Ukrainian and Russian FB users

Jun 12, 2015 — Dear Facebook,
Dear Mr. Kristensen,
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg.

Thank you for your response. We're glad that you have answered our petition.

Unfortunately, we are not as happy with the content of your response. It does nothing to reassure us. Quite contrary, it makes us think that you still don't understand the gravity of the problem.

You write about “multilingual, highly trained teams” and “quality control systems in place to ensure that reports are decided on correctly according to the common standards”. But what is your quality control worth if you have blocked the author of this photo for posting “nudity”?

It's just one of the most recent and most outrageous examples of the work done by your “highly trained teams”. There are many more. The number of accounts where you incorrectly remove content is not “small”. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of them.

Neither can we accept the carefree explanation that accounts are restored if there's a mistake. The procedure takes days, and sometimes mere hours without posting access can change the fate of a person, or even a country. Euromaidan protests started on November 21, 2013 with the Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayyem urging his readers on Facebook to go to the Independence Square. What would have happened if his account were blocked?

You say that you have designed your system to prevent mass campaigns from exploiting it. How do you explain this Facebook page, where a troll group is giving an account of such campaigns and boasting its achievements in blocking Ukrainian users? *

And how can you say that you “deal with requests from all over the world in an impartial way” if Ukrainian and Russian opposition bloggers are blocked for ridiculous reasons, while all the reports of the page calling to kill an entire nation are answered with “it doesn't violate our Community Standards”?

Some bloggers that you have blocked have tens thousands of followers. It equals or exceeds the circulation numbers of several respected Russian and Ukrainian periodicals. Just think of it, Facebook – blocking a person's account on a frivolous complaint is actually like closing down a newspaper.

But it's not the worst consequence of your state of denial about the moderation problem. You write in your response that you try to keep Facebook safe for everyone. Sorry, Facebook, but you have failed.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians don't feel safe anymore on your pages. They know that they are potential targets of troll attacks and their accounts can be blocked at any moment. Every response like this one reassures the trolls and gives them a sense of impunity. Every response like this one makes them double and triple their efforts.

On June 2, 2015, The New York Times Magazine published an article titled The Agency, describing in great detail how the army of trolls wreak havoc around the Internet. We have good reasons to believe that your moderation system is being exploited by the people paid from the same sources and using similar methods. And your quality control mechanisms are not up to the task.

Dear Facebook, it's not about a “small number of accounts” that you block incorrectly. You have a systemic problem. You can't solve it with ad hoc measures. You need a systemic solution. It's time to stop denying the facts and fix your moderation practices.

*) After we published our response the page was removed, but the trolls quickly created a new one and restored all content.

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