Facebook bizarreness

My posting this morning on three references to putative sex / gender differences caused Facebook to put me through a captcha test to get the thing posted — I presume because of the word sex in the text. Then people began reporting that FB had been labeling this posting (and two previous ones) as potential spam, in a bizarre use of the word spam, since the objection would have to be to the content of the postings (not to bulk mailing of unsolicited messages, especially advertising, which I certainly can’t be accused of doing: people get FB postings from me by virtue of having mutually friended me).

The first posting FB objected to was certainly sexual in content: “More news for penises”. But then the next one was “Reduplicative compounds”, which was a head-scratcher for me. John Lawler suggested that the FB bot “probably thinks reduplication is slang for something sexual”, but maybe the word fart was enough to set off the bot’s alarm bells.

Chris Ambidge reported an especially annoying FB characteristic:

it doesn’t “learn” – each time I go to one of the suspect postings, I get the warning screen (and each time, click the “not spam” button).

Chris Waigl didn’t get the warning, and hoped that meant enough of my FB friends disagreed with the classification. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, FB needs to find a label other than the inaccurate spam for potentially offensive content, and to refine its offense bot.

[Update: FB made me do a captcha to post this blog entry.]

[Update 4/25: After several test postings — one giving a link to the NYT rather than WordPress and one giving a link to Language Log (which also uses WordPress) — that didn’t produce warning screens, more tech-savvy FB friends looked into the matter. The compressed version:

Josh Simon: It may not even be you that got reported. In the “This site might be spam” warning, the “arnoldzwicky.” portion was in normal-weight text and the “wordpress.com” portion was bold, so FB might be under the impression that EVERYONE’s WP blog is spam.

David Preston: The spam message I’m seeing bolds the ‘wordpress.com’. The language log doesn’t have ‘wordpress.com’ in the url.

Ned Deily: After a little experimentation with my own test blog, I agree that Josh’s diagnosis is the correct one: at the moment, FB appears to be treating links from any blog hosted at wordpress.com as potential spam, and not just Arnold’s. It’s not the use of WordPress software per se: as David points out, Language Log isn’t hosted at wordpress.com. So, my earlier speculation about someone reporting an AZ blog post as spam is not the problem here. Presumably, FB and or wordpress.com will have to take some action.]


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