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Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook said it took action on 22.1 million pieces of hate speech content to its platform globally last quarter and about 6.5 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram. On both platforms, it says about 95% of that hate speech was proactively identified and stopped by artificial intelligence.

Details: In total, the company says that there are 10–11 views of hate speech for every 10,000 views of content uploaded to the site globally — or .1%. It calls this metric — how much problematic content it doesn't catch compared to how much is reported and removed — "prevalence."

Why it matters: The company is revealing hard numbers about how much hate speech is on its platform for the first time, in an attempt to showcase how much better it has gotten at identifying and removing hate speech quickly.

  • Facebook's vice president of global policy Monika Bickert says that the new prevalence metric will be used moving forward to track its effectiveness in removing hate speech.
  • She suggested that this metric could be used as a standard for the broader tech industry and could be considered by policymakers as a way to hold tech companies accountable when considering changes to Section 230, a U.S. law that serves as a content liability shield for tech companies.

Details: For context, Facebook says it takes down more hate speech than all other types of problematic content aside from nudity. It takes down far fewer pieces of problematic content include things like harassment, suicide and terrorism.

  • Some types of problematic content are much more subjective, like bullying, so the company takes less automated action on that type of content.
  • Hate speech tends to be the most appealed type of content by users once removed.
  • The company restored more content last quarter than in previous quarters. The company's VP of Integrity Guy Rosen said that was in part because the number of restored pieces of content tends to rise with the number of removed pieces.

The big picture: Facebook has made changes to its hate speech policies in the past few months to curb hate speech ahead of the election.

Yes, but: The company still faces criticism for what some consider to be policies that don't go far enough in policing hate speech.

  • Last week, the CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook wouldn't ban Steve Bannon from Facebook (he doesn't currently have his own Facebook profile) for comments he made that were uploaded to Facebook about threatening to behead prominent U.S. officials.
  • Bickert clarified Zuckerberg's position, saying that his comments did violate the company's policies and videos containing that content were all blocked, including the Steve Bannon-branded page that posted the videos, but that the video upload itself wouldn't ban Bannon from the platform.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech is outsourcing its hardest content moderation decisions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Faced with the increasingly daunting task of consistent content moderation at scale, Big Tech companies are tossing their hardest decisions to outsiders, hoping to deflect some of the pressure they face for how they govern their platforms.

Why it matters: Every policy change, enforcement action or lack thereof prompts accusations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are making politically motivated decisions to either be too lax or too harsh. Ceding responsibility to others outside the company may be the future of content moderation if it works.

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Facebook developing a tool to help advertisers avoid bad news

Photo Illustration: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook on Friday said it's testing new advertiser "topic exclusion controls" to help address concerns marketers may have that their ads are appearing next to topics in Facebook's News Feed that they consider bad for their brand.  

Why it matters: As Axios has previously noted, the chaotic nature of the modern news cycle and digital advertising landscape has made it nearly impossible for brands to run ads against quality content in an automated fashion without encountering bad content.