Categories: Facebook

Facebook is too big to be able to control the images that go on to its website

There are, currently, 260 billion photographs on Facebook. It is too difficult for Facebook to ensure that the photographs uploaded to their website are always acceptable. People should be aware of this. When a 13-year-old signs up to Facebook, as she is able to do without parental consent, is she aware of what she’s getting herself into?

Two stories highlight the problem. You may remember the iconic Pulitzer prize-winning war photo of a naked girl running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war (taken by Nick Ut). It was uploaded to Facebook but blocked and taken down. It must’ve been in breach of their opaque regulations. This is all the more bizarre because they now use software which can recognise the sort of photograph that is being uploaded. Apparently Facebook states that “crushed heads, limbs et cetera are okay as long as no insides are showing”. But, the photograph of a naked child running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war is an absolute no-no even if it does sum up the entire madness of that war. I presume she was naked because her clothes had been ripped from her as they were on fire from the sticky napalm.

Eventually this iconic photograph was reuploaded by the Norwegian Prime Minister in protest whereupon it was pulled once again from her Facebook page. Norway owns a sizeable chunk of Facebook equity so when she complained Facebook backed down and allowed her to publish the photograph on her Facebook page. But it took that kind of leverage.

Another story illustrates the other side of the coin. In this instance a photograph of an un-clothed Northern Irish girl was published on a so-called “shame page”. Facebook did not take the photograph down illustrating the absurd anomaly of their rules and regulations. Subsequently a Belfast judge stated that Facebook had a case to answer for not acting more rigorously after the girl’s parents had repeatedly asked the site to remove the image without success.

Apparently the girl had been blackmailed into handing over the picture. The girl’s lawyers are seeking compensation on her behalf. She is claiming damages for misuse of private information, negligence and beaches of the Data Protection Act. The girl is represented by a leading human rights lawyer and QC, Edward Fitzgerald, paid by the taxpayer under legal aid.

Facebook are in a bit of a pickle and as stated in the opening paragraph they are unable, because of the gargantuan scale of their website, to fully control uploaded photographs.

I’m told that they do have human moderators to check photographs but the work is outsourced to countries such as Morocco, the Philippines and Mexico where moderators are paid little more than one dollar an hour.

One moderator stated that it was not much money for the sort of work he does which he described as: “all the mess/dirt/weight/shit of the world flows towards you and you have to clean it.”

Facebook promotes the idea that they are a community but as we all know they are a very big business which made $18 billion in revenue last year. The decision-making process regarding images on their site is based upon financial profit rather than ethical principles.

My thanks to Dominic Lawson for analyising the FB image problem which bugs many people.

The reason why I have posted this page is because on a number of occasions to my knowledge, Facebook have refused to delete animal cruelty images or have been inordinately slow in acting. In addition some nasty people promote cat abuse on FB without censor.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • That poor lass in Belfast,dunno if ye recall but last year on my Tiger page Pottery barn reported an image I posted showing stuffed animal heads with attached petition to get Pottery Barn to remove those items from their shelves and then I was banned for 30 days,so from wot I taking from this article unless ye got a lawyer and money to back ye facebook will not comply,just like they would not comply when I reported a troll page that stole my personal photos and used them for the cover photo and it'so profile photo they replied back that it didnt violate their community standards or being harassed by trolls,facebook rakes in billions of dollars but yet can pay their monitors a decent wage,cant wrap my brain around that.

    • Irish, your experiences pretty much sum up the sort of problems we get with FB image policy and management. Thanks for sharing.

  • There's another aspect, which is that when people act responsibly and make complaint in the prescribed way, facebook (the paid workers of) wastes time by failing to ascribe it's own rules to inappropriate content on it's site. So the question is: if they are so overworked, or it's too burdensome a job to police their own site, then why don't they at least act appropriately and nix the offending images when they have the opportunity? (I've made dozens of complaints about animal cruelty that they bothered to look at but decided it was okay, and did nothing further! We're doing half their job FOR them!) It would cut down on their own workload by way of curtailing added complaints about the same content as well as send the message to offenders that they too are wasting their time should they think about posting more of the same. Lastly more time and effort is saved by not having to investigate further complaints of similar additional offenses, to which they'd do nothing. I fail to understand how spinning ones' wheels is somehow profitable. Ya think? I think facebook makes money in spite of itself, just like some bosses are idiots.

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