Never cite your sources on Facebook!

I had two comments hidden last weekend for allegedly posting “spam” on Facebook. What I did was link to the enabling legislation in a discussion about emergency powers of the executive in both city and state government – specifically the actions that Mayor Hamilton and Governor Holcomb have taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. I pointed to where the mayor and governor have been given specific powers by their respective legislative branches in state and city code.

Here is the comment:

The Mayor does have some emergency powers delegated by the city council, just as the governor has some emergency powers delegated by the state legislature.

http://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2019/ic/titles/010/#10-14

https://bloomington.in.gov/onboard/legislationFiles/download?legislationFile_id=5539

I posted these comments in a private group on Facebook. There are reasons why Facebook moderators should be able to access private or secret groups on Facebook, but moderation policy should be much more hands-off in these areas – especially regarding so-called “spam” comments. (Which my comment obviously was not.) If the group administrators do not have a problem with the comment, it should stay.

So despite the fact that Facebook allegedly wants to be an “information hub” for COVID-19, actually citing official government sources on the COVID-19 response is forbidden as “spam.” How about this? If a domain linked in a comment ends in a .gov then it is automatically not spam.

It is possible that my comment was caught in some kind of algorithm that flagged it because of two URL addresses in the text. However, an algorithm itself should not automatically delete posts without action by a human moderator. If a human being made the decision to remove a comment that was 100% within Facebook’s community guidelines, then that moderator needs further training. I appealed the censorship of my comments, but I have very little confidence that this erroneous decision will be reversed.

Facebook needs to reform the way it moderates posts and comments. Not only is it deleting posts that do not violate the rules, but the time that Facebook moderators spend dealing with comments like these would be much better spent dealing with comments that actually do violate the rules.