Hoe no! Facebook snafu spells trouble for gardening group | News
Moderating a Facebook garden group in western New York is not without its challenges. There are complaints of woolly beetles, bad weather, and the beginners who insist on using dish detergent on their plants.
And then there is the word “hoe”.
Facebook’s algorithms sometimes flag this word as a “violation of community standards” and appear to refer to another word with no “e” at the end, but which is often misspelled as a gardening tool.
Typically, Facebook’s automated systems mark posts with offensive material and delete them. However, if the members of a group – or worse, administrators – break the rules too often, the entire group can be closed.
Elizabeth Licata, one of the group’s moderators, was concerned about this. After all, the WNY Gardeners group has more than 7,500 members who use them to get gardening tips and advice. It was especially popular during the pandemic when many home-bound people first started gardening.
A hoe with any other name can be a rake, harrow, or rototill. But Licata didn’t want to ban the word from the group or try to delete every instance. When a group member commented, “Push pull hoe!” In a post asking for “Your Favorite and Essential Weed Killer,” Facebook sent a notification that said, “We’ve reviewed this comment and found it violated our standards for Harassment and bullying are a violation. “
Facebook uses both human moderators and artificial intelligence to root out material that violates its rules. In that case, a person would likely have known that a hoe in a garden group is unlikely to be a case of harassment or bullying. But AI is not always good at the context and nuances of language.
Users often complain that they report violent or abusive language and Facebook rules that don’t violate community standards. Misinformation about vaccines and elections has been a longstanding and well-documented problem for the social media company. On the other hand, there are groups like Licata’s who get caught up in overly eager algorithms.
Licata said she had never heard of anyone and Facebook and found it pointless to navigate the social network’s survey system and try to clear the record.
A Facebook representative said in an email this week that the company had found the group and corrected the flawed enforcements. It also introduced an additional review, which means someone – an actual person – will review offensive posts before the group is considered for deletion. The company wouldn’t say if other nurseries had similar problems.