Facebook reveals it scans Messenger for content that flouts policies

Zuckerberg revealed how Facebook once scanned a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

  • Published: April 5, 2018 1:27 PM IST

Adding to the woes of users and privacy advocates, Facebook revealed that it scans the links and images that people send each other through its Messenger platform to flag off content which flouts the policies. The revelation was made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview with Vox‘s Ezra Klien. Even as he intended to be transparent about Facebook’s combat against spread of hate speech, abuse or crime, the revelation comes at a time when the social networking giant is already under the scanner over breach of user privacy.

During the interview, Zuckerberg gave an example about how Facebook once scanned a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. The company detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Facebook Messenger app and intervened.

Facebook has systems and human moderators who flag off content deemed in violation of the company policies. If such a link is detected, it gets blocked or taken down. Zuckerberg said in the interview, “In that case, our systems detect what’s going on. We stop those messages from going through.”

Now, this did not go well with users who expressed their concerns after Facebook admitting it snoops on users’ conversations to sift out flagged content. Facebook clarified that Messenger does not use the data from the scanned messages for advertising, but the policy may extend beyond what Messenger users expect, Bloomberg reports.

The company stressed that the conversations on Messenger are private, but Facebook scans them and uses the same tools to prevent abuse there that it does on the social network in general. The content needs to abide by Facebook’s community standards. Users can also flag off content, but Facebook already does so.

“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses,” a Facebook Messenger spokeswoman is quoted as saying in a statement. “Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.” The company further revealed that the Messenger scanning systems are very similar to those that other internet companies use today.

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To control the global reputational damage Facebook is going through following the discovery of data firm Cambridge Analytica misusing user data for political tools, the company refreshed its data policy and terms of use for an easier understanding.

  • Published Date: April 5, 2018 1:27 PM IST