At the time of printing, there is a possibility that the heading of such an article on Facebook will trigger a possible deactivation with a "spam" tag and without further explanation.
On Tuesday, social media users started sharing scattered reports with a confusing common problem: links from reputable news agencies that they shared – either publicly or in private groups for friends only – were marked as "Community Policy" violations and automatically adopted below – and many – but not all – had mentioned "coronavirus" either in the heading or in the text of the article. Other hot topics in auto-shutdown include the recent Democratic Party primaries in the United States … and the recent viral sensation of penguins on YouTube roaming freely in a Chicago aquarium.
A YouTube video of penguins released in an aquarium near Chicago, tagged and removed by Facebook.
This seemed to affect posts that were up to five days old and included content from established newspapers and websites such as Politico, The Atlantic, USA Today, Vice, Business Insider, Axios and The Seattle Times. Also caught up in the net are the more open blogging platform Medium (which operates a number of occupied and edited subpages) and the crowdfunding page GoFundMe. At the time of going to press, it is admittedly difficult to compile a complete list of the websites and topics affected, as these shutdown reports are reported and distributed.
Targeting GoFundMe and other crowdfunding sites may well be accompanied by growing concerns about social media as a source of hoaxes and malware distribution. In one case, New York Times bestselling author and activist Ijeoma Oluo promoted her Seattle region fundraiser to "those in the Seattle art scene who were financially affected by (event) cancellations," one of several GoFundMe campaigns in which she participated on behalf of the vulnerable population of Seattle. Days later, she learned that members of the community who tried to share the same link saw it removed from Facebook and marked as spam. Oluo’s own posts were not marked as spam.
"It is discouraging to see contributions about fundraisers trying to help COVID-19 affected communities that are marked as spam," Oluo told Ars Technica. "It undermines trust in our campaign and harms the communities we want to help." Oluo clarified that when other users turned to them about Facebook's automatic shutdown, they questioned whether their GoFundMe campaign was somehow fraudulent.
When asked about the source of these "spam" messages and post-takedowns, a Facebook representative referred us to a breaking statement by Guy Rosen, the company's vice president, saying, "We're there. This is a mistake in one." Anti-Spam System We are in the process of repairing and returning all of these posts. More to come shortly. "(Ironically, Facebook referred us to a statement by the company on Twitter.)
This article has been updated since it was published with evidence of at least one penguin related Facebook deactivation.