Facebook Admits Erroneous Penalty, Declines to Respond on Review

Massachusetts Peace Action's Facebook page
Massachusetts Peace Action's Facebook page

by Cole Harrison

Facebook has reinstated Massachusetts Peace Action’s page and removed the penalties levied against it.  A Facebook representative indicated that we had been penalized due to “false positives”, meaning that an algorithm had wrongly identified our posts as hate speech.

The one-month penalization of Mass. Peace Action by Facebook appears not to have been part of any Facebook campaign against progressive advocacy, but rather a misdirected algorithm that was trying to remove right-wing hate speech.

On February 11 and 13, our page carried notices of a study group on right-wing extremism.  A Facebook algorithm mistakenly tagged the posts as hate speech, deleted them, penalized Mass. Peace Action’s page, and threatened to unpublish it.  We explained the situation in an article on March 4.

Facebook ignored six complaints and requests for review that we submitted through the site in February.  Then, the staff of a Massachusetts legislative office introduced to Carrie Adams of Facebook’s “Politics and Government” department.   After investigation, Adams told us in an email:

“We’ve found that the most recent strikes against Mass Peace Action are indeed false positives. The strikes have been reversed and their page should be in good standing….. False positives are quite rare, and the penalty (shown on the page quality tab) are temporary for a violation like this. I will note on the violation type your page wrongly had (support of a hate group), we’d rather err on the side of bringing content down than leaving it up.”

It appears that our page is now in good standing and being shown to Facebook users.

When we asked Adams twice why Facebook has no way to appeal penalties like this or to request review, she ignored the question and did not respond.