Facebook Declares BBC Article About French Political Polls 'Unsafe'

from the dave,-i-can't-let-you-post-that... dept

Lots of people have reasonable concerns about platforms like Facebook which not only provide an avenue for free expression — but which also have the power to suddenly decide it won’t allow certain forms of expression. Admittedly, there’s always a line to be drawn somewhere. People are happy that Facebook tries to keep out spam and scams, but it’s still worrying when it seems to want to filter out perfectly legitimate news stories. On Sunday, Nadim Kobeissi tweeted that Facebook wouldn’t allow the sharing of a BBC article on the latest political polling in France.

I wasn’t sure I believed it so I tried to post that link to my own Facebook page and got a similar message:
Now it’s possible that there’s a concern over rogue dangerous ads on the BBC site — though for many people the BBC displays no ads at all. It’s also possible that Facebook’s algorithms interpret news about the National Front party (which is politely described as “far right,” but might more accurately be described as nationalist-to-racist) as somehow dangerous. But, just the fact that Facebook is magically determining that a news story is somehow “unsafe” without giving me any details to understand why or how is tremendously concerning.

And, again, this comes just after we’ve seen American politicians calling for Facebook and others to magically determine how to block “bad” content that might inspire terrorists. And, it comes just as Google’s Eric Schmidt argued that these kinds of filters should be more common. Yet, examples like this show just how problematic the idea of these kinds of filters can be.

The more pressure put on companies like Facebook to do that kind of proactive filtering, the more likely that perfectly legitimate information and news stories like the BBC story here get blocked. And that should be seen as immensely problematic if you believe in free expression and the ability to share ideas freely.

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Companies: bbc, facebook

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Comments on “Facebook Declares BBC Article About French Political Polls 'Unsafe'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

the whole idea is to stop information that certain parties, political and social, as well as individuals, dont want spread around at all, let alone around the globe in a matter os seconds! most people may not yet realise it but we are being force programmed to accept any shit thrown at us, any laws and restrictions as well as not standing up for ourselves against any and all governments that want only to know everything about us so they can prempt what we may do, especially in retaliation to some treatment or new restriction!

charliebrown (profile) says:

Re: My Experience

My experience says it is keywords. I found an article about Bin Laden’s cassette collection which I found interesting and I knew a few people I knew, would also find it interesting. I linked to the article and FaceBook said no. I removed the preview of the page (as the headline featured “Bin Laden” in it but the URL did not) and suddenly I was able to post it as if nothing had happened. I’m pretty certain, actually, this was also a BBC article.

John85851 (profile) says:

And yet there's still spam

So Facebook will block links to legitimate news sources, but it continues to allow spam postings? It seems like almost every day that my friends are “tagged” by spammers trying to sell Ray Ban sunglasses or football jerseys or even porn sites.
And don’t get me started on all the “news” sites that people link-to which contain crap, lies, hoaxes, and other misinformation.

Yet Facebook doesn’t allow a link to the BBC website?! Wow.

Anonymous Coward says:

facebook: rigorous enforcement sometimes, blind eye other times

It’s no secret that Facebook bans so-called “hate groups” from using its site, but how this label is determined is not only biased, but inconsistent and mysterious. We can probably all agree that there’s a fine line between legitimate criticism and “hate” speech (even if we don’t agree where that line should be) but Facebook seems to enforce its rules in such an unpredictable, scattershot approach that no one can ever be sure just where they stand.

Facebook has also been deleting the accounts of people and organizations that Hollywood objects to. One recent example is the bittorrent site RarBG, which is not only DMCA compliant, but has never posted any links to content on its Facebook page.

Perhaps one of the oddest cases of Facebook censorship was of that temporarily-famous college cheerleader who posted hunting safari photos a couple of years ago — yet the Facebook pages that popped up calling for her murder (like the Facebook page named “Kill Kendall Jones”) were left untouched, despite repeated pleas to Facebook from her father. It took a groundswell of protest (and reportedly legions of people threatening to quit Facebook over the issue) before Facebook was finally forced to step in and take action.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: facebook: rigorous enforcement sometimes, blind eye other times

“how this label is determined is not only biased, but inconsistent and mysterious”

Inconsistent, yes, but not really mysterious in my experience. They seem to take action only when they receive a number of complaints so if, say, high profile right-wing hate groups get shut down more than PETA-style groups, that may simply be because people react differently to those kinds of issues (reports vs. ignore).

“Facebook has also been deleting the accounts of people and organizations that Hollywood objects to. One recent example is the bittorrent site RarBG, which is not only DMCA compliant, but has never posted any links to content on its Facebook page.”

This one?


or this one?


If it’s an older one, do you have any links to why it may have been removed? If Facebook are complying with DMCA notices themselves, it’s not strictly their fault even if the site would prefer they fight on their side to protect them from such notices. I’d hope a DMCA compliant gorup would at least understand what a pain in the arse that would be.

As for the cheerleader, I’m unfamiliar with the case. But, from your description it sounds like the problem was with not pro-actively disabling the threat page, not that they were wrong in disabling the account with offensive content according to their T&Cs.

I see your points, but given that some people on Facebook seem to have no problem sharing “this photo was banned, share it to everyone!” type posts that are obviously fake, I take a pinch of salt with this kind of criticism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: facebook: rigorous enforcement sometimes, blind eye other times

“Facebook has also been deleting the accounts of people and organizations that Hollywood objects to. One recent example is the bittorrent site RarBG, which is not only DMCA compliant, but has never posted any links to content on its Facebook page.”

This one?


or this one?


If it’s an older one, do you have any links to why it may have been removed?

Your googling skills are seriously lacking, as a simple search for “rarbg” and “facebook” returns this Torrentfreak news article (which explains everything) as the top search result:


Without any prior warning, Facebook has removed the official page of popular torrent site RARBG after a complaint from a copyright holder. The operator of the site scolds Facebook for the takedown, noting that they never posted any copyright infringing content on the social network.

With millions of regular visitors RARBG is one of the most popular torrent sites on the Internet.

Like most sites of its size, RARBG also has a Facebook presence where it keeps its users informed about the latest developments, including new features and the occasional outage.

However, a few hours ago RARBGs official Facebook page suddenly disappeared.

Initially, the operator assumed that there was some kind of error, but after logging into Facebook he was presented with the following message.

“We have disabled or removed access to the following content you posted on Facebook because we received a report from a third party that the content infringes their copyright(s).

TF spoke with the operator of the torrent site who informed us that they were careful not to link to any infringing material. In fact, until now they have never received any copyright complaints from Facebook.

According to RARBG, Facebook simply took a copyright holder complaint for granted without any further investigation.

Once again Facebook proved that they are not fighting for freedom of speech and they will bend over to any company that makes any copyright complaint without even taking the time to send a warning or properly investigate the issue, RARBGs admin says.

This isnt the first time that Facebook has shut down a torrent site fanpage. Previously, the same happened to The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and ExtraTorrent.

For RARBG the removal was the last straw. The torrent site doesnt plan to make a new Facebook page just to risk starting all over again a few months from now, so will simply be a little less social instead.

Update: Limetorrents informed us that Facebook also deleted their page, which had tens of thousands of fans.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I’m hoping Facebook dies someday”

Friendster was killed off by Myspace, which was killed off by Facebook. So its just a matter of waiting for the next ‘social’ site that will attract Facebook’s users and resist the temptation of being bought out.


But it’s worth noting that Facebook fights dirty whenever a rival comes along to challenge its dominance, using such below-the-belt tactics as banning any mention of rival site Tsu in people’s posts on Facebook. But after enforcing the ban for two months, criticism of Facebook’s anti-competitive heavy-handed censorship has finally nudged the giant into ending the censorship of Tsu.


Which leads me to believe that Tsu was quietly bought out by Facebook and this former threat to Facebook’s monopoly will now be slowly extinguished from the inside.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’m hoping Facebook dies someday.”

It will, just as its predecessors did.

“Its so full of misinformation that people take seriously, and these people have children who will grow up to be teachers.”

That happens in a lot of places on the Internet. The death of Facebook will do nothing to stop gullible idiots sharing lies with each other. They also use Twitter, Tumblr and a million web forums to do this while Facebook still exists.

“(insert current concern here) could be the start of the fall of civilization as we know it.”

…said everyone about something current since civilization began.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, FACEBOOK is a walled garden then?

and Sugarhill wants to give for free (with government subsidies) access to his walled garden to the poor third world


so WHY would a corrupt third world government be interested in arranging the “free” supply of a filtered version of internet to his ignorant human cattle?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“so, FACEBOOK is a walled garden then?”

If you don’t know what the term means, sure.

“and Sugarhill wants to give for free (with government subsidies) access to his walled garden to the poor third world”

Assuming you mean Mark Zuckerberg (stop with childish names if you want to be taken seriously) – yes, it looks like he wants to set up an actual walled garden system there and that’s something he’s been roundly criticised for here. Welcome to the party.

Jeff Rivett (profile) says:

Facebook needs to review their policy on what constitutes 'unsafe'

The same warning has been plaguing one of my clients, who hosts web sites on his own server. As with most ordinary Internet connections, his is assigned a WAN IP dynamically, and because of that, it’s listed in the SORBS DUHL blacklist. When someone tries to post a link to one of his sites on Facebook, they get that warning. He’s also unable to post his own site URLs in his profile, but in this case the URL is fully rejected. Using an URL shortener gets around the problem, but it looks weird. I’ve opened a support ticket with Facebook, suggesting they review this policy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Public Utilities

This is exactly why companies which are conduits for information exchange and which are used by a certain critical mass of individuals should be held to an external standard beyond their control. Basically they should be required to respect the free speech rights of all users and not be allowed to engage in any form of censorship.

Larry Larson says:

Facebook's control "concerning"?

Why would anybody with an ounce of respect for their own privacy have a FartBook account? Why would anybody with a FartBook account expect anything less than far-left fascism from the small-minded, hypocritical, progressive scum that that owns and runs the place?

Wake up and smell the coffee, friend.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Facebook's control "concerning"?

What is it with people who think they’re better than everyone else needing to come up with kindergarten-level silly nicknames for things they dislike? You’d get a message across better if you weren’t acting like a child while doing so, you know.

“anything less than far-left fascism”

Is far-right fascism more preferable to your mindset? If not, why make the distinction?


Oh, I see. You’re one of the intellectually incurious morons who’s been fooled into thinking that progress is bad for some reason. Carry on, then.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Facebook's control "concerning"?

“Progressives” is a stupid term mostly used by right-wing Americans to deride people they don’t like when they finished poisoning the “liberal” term. That game is the realm of fools who think that politics is a team game and it undermines intelligent discussion, as well as actual solution to the problems of the world. You know, like coming up with names a 4 year old would say on the playground instead of addressing issues.

Now, are you interested in discussing the real opinions of people across the political spectrum (yes, spectrum, as in there are many different positions, not binary ones)? Or, are you just another partisan twit who attacks everyone not on their “team” based on fictionalised strawmen?

I have no time for you if you’re the latter, but please engage with some adult reasoning behind your statements if you’re capable and interested in a conversation.

Margo Thatcher says:


Simply Facebook blocks things like a dictator does, because they can. They even block people for calling a person a bird brain, or even get a life silly cow when people insult one. This is there playground, but they do not block Terrorists recruiting people this they ignore and have done for years, there are many things on Facebook that should not be, but that is okay because they can…

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