Ha’aretz, for once, has published something important and true. The whole article is essential reading (but paywalled)so I’ll try to summarise and pull the conclusions.
Facebook Censoring Some Hebrew Posts Based on Machine Translations
Court documents obtained by Haaretz reveal that over 80 percent of a controversial academic’s posts were removed by the platform based on poor machine translations
From documents obtained by Haaretz, it seems that in Israel, too, not all content is moderated by Hebrew speakers – despite the fact that it is a country full of domestic and foreign political tensions, and where Facebook has been active for over a decade.
When Haaretz asked Facebook whether all content posted in Hebrew is examined by Hebrew speakers, it did not deny that some is not. In fact, the social media platform did not actually respond to questions but instead made do with a vague response trumpeting its efforts to deal with potentially offensive content.
The new documents were revealed thanks to a lawsuit filed by Prof. Amir Hetsroni against Facebook in May, after it deleted his account. Hetsroni is demanding his account be reinstated and one million shekels ($270,000) in compensation.
I’m not even interested in what Professor Hetsroni is posting or which side of any ideological divide he sits on, I’m just interested in how Facebook arrived at a decision to delete his account, and the answer that is coming back from Facebook is very worrying. Here’s what came back to the Professor from Facebook’s lawyers:
Of over 50 posts that appeared among the documents, only 10 appeared solely in Hebrew. More than 40 (the number is larger, but some were duplicates) were accompanied by an machine translation, which failed to accurately reflect Hetsroni’s original text. In other words, in order to decide what to do with the Hebrew posts, the content moderators who are in charge of monitoring posts needed something to translate them. The translation results are far from satisfactory and are riddled with inaccuracies.
It is absolutely clear that Facebook ended an account based entirely on machine translations. As we all know that it is not very well impossible to rely on “artificial intelligence”, especially in translation, to rely on any serious decision making. But it looks like the only way Facebook can apply its ridiculous community standard in Hebrew.
OK, now I’ll repeat that previous paragraph, this time without running it through Bing Translator into Hebrew then back to English!
It’s absolutely obvious from this that Facebook terminated an account based entirely on machine translations. As we all know it is well nigh impossible to rely on so-called “artificial intelligence”, especially in translation, for any serious decision making. Yet this would appear to be the only way Facebook can implement its ridiculous community standards in Hebrew.
You get the point. From Ha’aretz:
We should also remember that even when a human eye parses the posts earmarked for deletion, the process is outsourced and the moderators are not very well paid. A large number work for contractors in the Philippines and Germany. According to a Radiolab show dedicated to the subject, the moderating work is Sisyphean and wearing, and involves exposure to countless horrors such as violent video footage or child pornography, as well as texts. Moderators are required to handle huge quantities of content without understanding the context, which is likely to differ from one country to the next and also from year to year.
After receiving the court documents, Haaretz sent Facebook four questions:
Does Facebook employ content moderators who understand Hebrew?
Is all the Hebrew content moderated by Hebrew speakers?
How much of it is processed by artificial intelligence?
Is the AI based on a neural network that was trained in data in Hebrew, or is it based on a machine translation by Bing or Google?
Facebook did not offer direct answers to any of the questions. Instead, it sent this reply: “Over 2 billion people in the world use Facebook and there’s no question that people share their opinion on the platform only when they feel safe. Therefore, we have clear rules regarding what is acceptable. In order to help us to manage content, there are teams working all over the world that examine posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all the time zones and in dozens of languages.
“In certain instances, the examination is also sent to a team at Facebook that has expertise in the topic in question and is familiar with that country. We also invest a great deal in AI technology, in order to help deal with problematic content on Facebook in the most effective manner. We remove content from Facebook regardless of who posts it when it violates our rules.
“A fast and accurate survey of posts is crucial for safeguarding Facebook users. That’s why we are doubling the number of people on the security teams this year to 20,000 – over 7,500 of whom are content moderators. We are constantly improving the rules of our community and have invested significantly in our ability to enforce them effectively. This is a complex task and we still have a lot to do, but we are committed to making Facebook a safe place.”
There is no way for this to continue. How is Facebook now supposed to police what is or isn’t #FakeNews in relation to the Palestinians if they can’t even read the languages in which this is taking place? They’ve clearly got almost no capability to read Hebrew, Arabic will have a much bigger posting volume, how do they cope with that?
If we are to have “social media” then it either follows the model of Western Civilisations and democracy: true free speech, even ugly and hateful speech or it follows the model of fascist dictatorships and closed societies. Right now every large social network, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc, are running toward the fascist/communist/dictatorship model. And the ones going the other way, like Gab, which is fighting for its life following its entire deletion from the web based on the posts of the Pittsburgh terrorist Jew murderer, are struggling to stay alive.
The idea of granting people a right not to be offended is very dangerous. It is not a popular position in Jewish circles, especially now, to say I think Nazis should be able to post hateful content, but I’m afraid the consequences of censorship (even by private companies) will be far worse. I’d say nothing short of the survival of Western Civilisation depends on canceling this “right” and running away from the entire attempt to police hate speech.