Facebook, Google and tackling the problem of destructive content

Facebook is under fire on multiple fronts: already, it's hired 3,000 moderators to combat extremist content, felt pressured enough to run newspaper ads on spotting fake news, and been ordered by the Austrian courts to tackle hate speech around the world.

It is near impossible to control what is posted, argues Dan George
It is near impossible to control what is posted, argues Dan George

That’s a lot for one brand to deal with – even one as seemingly powerful as Facebook. In fact, the bigger the firm, the harder it is to deal with destructive content.

The sheer volume of posts to the platform makes it nearly impossible to control what’s posted – no matter how many moderators you hire.

But that’s not how the public sees it.

The tech giants have grown rich while loudly shouting about their ability to solve any problem with the right algorithm.

Now people ask why they haven’t fixed the issue of problematic content and wonder if it’s down to a lack of commitment; especially when the platforms in question have made great strides in removing copywritten content from their services – Google’s swift removal of movies from YouTube being the obvious example.

This is a real problem for the big players.

Even as their share prices remain healthy, they still need consumers and brands on their side. And they face an uphill battle to keep them there.

So, what should they do about it?

When dealing with potentially damaging issues, it’s important to keep things simple.

To this end, communications should do three things: acknowledge the seriousness of the public’s concerns, demonstrate that real action is being taken, and work to soothe people’s fears.

Acknowledge the issue

Facebook has begun to talk about the issue of quality control in recent months – with those fake news ads being the latest example. But that’s not enough. The problem barely merited a mention at its annual F8 conference the other week. Tech firms can be very quick to shout about their successes – they must match this by fronting up to the less positive implications of their work.

Take action

Of course, it’s not enough to admit to a problem without then working to fix it. Hiring moderators is a good start. But there’s more work to do. The public will notice if Google and Facebook are anything less than tireless. They need to be consistent in coming up with new and meaningful initiatives – even when things seem quiet.

Put it in perspective

People don’t realise how difficult it is to control the quality of content on the scale that Facebook and Google must. They should lift the lid on their operations – educating people on why it’s so tough and the different methods they have at their disposal – along with future plans – to keep us safe from dangerous content.

This is a serious reputational threat and the public’s expectation that the problem will be tackled weighs heaviest on the biggest tech brands.

They face an uphill battle; one that can only be won by keeping things simple.

Dan George is creative lead at Aspectus

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