Facebook Pressed to Stop Ignoring la Desinformación en Español

Facebook Pressed to Stop Ignoring la Desinformación en Español
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on 'Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms' on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, in Washington. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

Civil liberties advocates are working to raise awareness of Facebook’s apparent disinterest in moderating Spanish-language posts — with at least the same meandering enforcement it applies towards English-speaking users.

The Centre for American Progress, Free Press, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Real Facebook Oversight Board said in a statement Tuesday that Facebook has “continuously ignored” warnings by experts who’ve flagged rampant disinformation targeting U.S.-based Spanish speakers. The groups expressed disappointment with Facebook while urging for change ahead of impending congressional hearings.

Facebook is widely known for announcing big policy changes in the days before speaking to Congress.

Civil rights leaders who’ve worked closely with Facebook in recent years in the interest of honing its moderation tactics tell Gizmodo the company has knowingly neglected disinformation targeting Spanish-speakers, including election-related propaganda banned in English across the platform.

One source, who spoke anonymously to describe internal discussions with Facebook staff on enforcement matters, said that company officials have shown indifference to abuse in languages other than English, noting the issue extends far beyond the U.S. and encompasses countries such as Myanmar, where such abuse has led to literal genocide.

In a statement Tuesday, U.S. digital rights leaders pressed Facebook to begin work properly moderating harmful posts targeting its Spanish-speaking users:

“To address the rampant Spanish-language disinformation in the U.S.,” the organisations wrote, “we call on Facebook to publicly identify an executive-level manager to oversee U.S. Spanish-language content moderation policy and enforcement, to publicly explain the translation process of the algorithm and content moderation and share the training materials used to review whether content violates existing policy.”

Llamamientos para reformas sobre el español se han producido con el hashtag #YaBastaFacebook.

The leaders have asked Facebook to identify an executive responsible for U.S. Spanish-language enforcement and to publicly detail how the platform’s machine learning algorithms translate and detect abusive posts. They also call on Facebook to disclose how many Spanish-language content moderators it currently employs, in addition to the overall number of U.S. moderators, and to share the materials used to train those employees.

Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the U.S. with over 40 million speakers. As a multinational language, its usage varies by region, making it hard to imagine that any one person could effectively serve as chief moderator for all content created in Spanish.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to testify before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 25 alongside Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

“We demand real accountability from Facebook, not more corporate spin,” said Carmen Scurato, senior policy counsel at Free Press. “We have issued clear demands and a realistic, actionable plan that Facebook must follow. Ya Basta, Facebook — this needs to end.”