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Facebook allows bullying and fight videos if it helps ‘condemn’ such behaviour

Firm also refutes claims by moderators in secret film exposé

Facebook says it allows videos depicting bullying, or teenagers fighting, to remain online in some circumstances if it helps “condemn” the behaviour.

The company recently defended a policy which allows videos showing child physical abuse to remain online in an effort to identify and aid the child.

Now the technology company is set to tell TDs and senators that it allows videos showing bullying or teenage fights, if the content is being shared to “condemn” the behaviour.

Two senior Facebook staff members will appear before the Oireachtas Communications Committee today to answer questions about the content moderation policy, following a series of damning revelations exposed in an undercover documentary.

In the company’s opening statement, seen by the Irish Independent, Niamh Sweeney, head of public policy for Facebook, outlines the company’s response to the issues raised.

Facebook is responding to revelations in Channel 4’s recent ‘Dispatches’ programme.

Among the most concerning content allowed to remain online by moderators was a video of a toddler being physically abused.

In the wake of the programme, Siobhán Cummiskey, head of content policy for the company in Europe, said in limited circumstances such videos were left online in the hope of identifying the child to facilitate a rescue.

But the video shown first surfaced online in 2012 and the child was identified by Malaysian authorities at that time.

Allowing it to remain online was a “mistake”, the company will say today, and the video should have been removed. Media matching technology is being used to prevent the same video from being uploaded again.

But another distressing video which was left online by moderators was a video showing two teenage girls fighting in the UK. Ms Sweeney is expected to outline policy around such videos, which is if it is being shared to “condemn” the behaviour, it is placed behind a content warning screen but left up.

The company said if there was any request by a minor shown in the video, or their guardian, it would always result in the video being removed.

Facebook will also use the public hearing to refute a number of claims made by CPL staff in the documentary – including the suggestion that it is in their commercial interest to allow violent content to remain online.

Facebook is leading an internal investigation with CPL to “establish how these gaps between our policies and values and the training given by CPL staff came about”.

This investigation began in earnest on July 23 as “out of an abundance of caution and concern for their well-being, CPL encouraged the staff members directly affected by the programme to take some time off”.

Specialised experts are being seconded to CPL offices for six months to oversee all training and provide coaching, reinforcement and mentoring.

An audit of previous quality control checks over the past six months will also be carried out to identify any missed failings and this will “include temporarily removing content reviewers who have made consistent or repeated errors from this type of work until they have been retrained”.

The company will also take the chance today to speak on proposals for a Digital Safety Commissioner – which it says it broadly supports, but also raises concerns over freedom of expression and potential “uncertainty and unpredictability”.

Irish Independent

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