Yesterday North Dakota activated its National Guard, who arrived in full riot gear to arrest protestors of the Dakota Oil Pipeline. At least twenty people were arrested, including medics and journalists. However, one of the most striking things about the arrest was its absence on social media.
The AntiMedia reports that Facebook blocked posts including a link to the protest live stream, and the Facebook debugger reported the link “violated ‘community standards.’” In a followup to MotherBoard, Facebook claims their automatic spam filter flagged the link by mistake, trying to remove “unsafe content”. It has also overzealously blocked links to Wikileaks, videos of police shootings, and a historic Vietnam War photo.
This may well be a technical glitch, as writing code to interpret video and images, or even human language, is a notoriously difficult task. Even so, the fact that an overly hasty algorithm can intervene and prevent news from reaching more than one and a half billion users is a disturbing thought.