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People started noticing the mysterious glitch this afternoon and posted about it on social media. More irate users thought it was being used as a means to censor certain content.
This is weird.— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) May 1, 2018
Facebook is asking me about whether *my own post* on Facebook contains hate speech.
And also, the post is just a NYT story about restaurant trends in Austin, to which I've added no commentary. pic.twitter.com/ZIrUW4IW4q
Facebook is now asking people if posts on their feed "contain hate speech." Just imagine how abused this is going to be in a world that believes disagreement is hate?— Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) May 1, 2018
So... Facebook now has a little button on EVERY SINGLE POST that asks people if it's hate speech, and there's no way this could possibly go wrong ¯_(ツ)_/¯— Christian Datoc (@TocRadio) May 1, 2018
Facebook is censoring my account. Asking if my post contains "Hate Speech"— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) May 1, 2018
Give me a break. Opposing Radical Islam is NOT Hate Speech. pic.twitter.com/MNUBIWtXML
However, Facebook determined a bug caused the internal feature to launch publicly. While it may seem the social network is protecting itself after receiving backlash, the nature of the prompt suggests it was never intended for release.
After a user selected “Yes” to “Does this post contain hate speech?” they were shown three buttons labeled “Test P 1,” “Test P 2,” and “Test P 3.” It’s not clear how many users were affected, but for those who were, the internal feature showed up in every timeline post, including advertisements.
A Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo the company was conducting an “internal test” to “understand different types of speech, including speech we thought would not be hate.”
Facebook’s vice president of product management, Guy Rosen, said the problem was solved within 20 minutes. He tweeted one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s posts as an example.
Some people saw 'does this post contain hate speech' today on some posts. This was a test - and a bug that we reverted within 20 mins. It was shown for a short time on posts regardless of their content (like this one). pic.twitter.com/iuNKSVTOqQ— Guy Rosen (@guyro) May 1, 2018
For years, Facebook has been trying to improve the ways it polices its site for hate speech. It most recently published the full guidelines its moderators use to determine what content is and isn’t allowed.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.