Facebook is increasing its censorship capabilities with a new $100,000 project to automatically detect what the social media giant calls “hateful memes.” The move comes as Facebook looks for further ways to monopolize the internet by buying out animated photo site Giphy for a whopping $400 million.
Facebook’s current $100,000 project is a competition enlisting willing participants to help it train AI to figure out what a “hateful image” really is. The company rightly notes that its artificial intelligence programs haven’t been able to successfully piece together what a “hateful” image looks like, because it views the text and image separately.
This isn’t news to anyone who’s been on social media for any length of time; indeed, stories abound of both Facebook and Twitter automatically removing posts that were completely innocent simply because its AI processors can’t understand context. Facebook is now clearly trying to address that problem by coming up with a way for AI to understand subtleties the way human beings do.
“In order for AI to become a more effective tool for detecting hate speech, it must be able to understand content the way people do: holistically,” Facebook wrote. “When viewing a meme, for example, we don’t think about the words and photo independently of each other; we understand the combined meaning together. This is extremely challenging for machines, however, because it means they can’t just analyze the text and the image separately. They must combine these different modalities and understand how the meaning changes when they are presented together.”
The big problem with Facebook’s project stems from what the site considers to be “hateful speech”. Its examples of bad photos include the image of a skunk with the words “I love the way you smell today” and an image of an empty beach with the text “see how many people love you”.
Granted, these images are mean, but the internet, like the real world, isn’t supposed to be a safe space in which no-one’s feelings are ever offended. If an image of a skunk coupled with a snide remark is banned, then posts promoting “wrong think” points of view will be hit first. Memes that call for the lifting of draconian stay-at-home orders or question the safety of a COVID-19 vaccine are also most likely doomed.
Essentially, Facebook is scrapping one of the last vestiges of a free and open internet experience.
Granted, there are some truly vile images out there that have no place on the internet or anywhere else. However, Facebook’s track record makes it clear that the social media giant is far more concerned with censoring free speech it doesn’t like than it is about removing harmful content.
This won’t be the last move from Silicon Valley either. Other social media giants such as Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are sure to follow the example.
We hope you were able to enjoy the internet as we all remember it, because we’re clearly in the final phases of it.