Facebook ranks countries into tiers of importance for content moderation, with some nations getting little to no direct oversight, report says

Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
  • Facebook isn’t moderated equally in every country, new documents reveal.
  • Facebook reportedly divides countries into tiers to decide how moderation is handled per country.
  • The US, India, and Brazil are all given highest priority, while most of the world receives few resources.

With nearly 3 billion people using its service, Facebook has to make some major choices when it comes to content moderation.

Rather than applying resources equally across the planet, company leaders reportedly decide where to focus the most resources – and have repeatedly focused on a few countries where Facebook is most popular.

In one example from internal Facebook documents reviewed by The Verge, a group at Facebook met in late 2019 to discuss how best to focus moderation resources around the world ahead of several major elections. The documents were part of the Facebook Papers, a series of reports published by a consortium of 17 US news organizations that said they had reviewed leaked internal documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The United States, Brazil, and India were all given so-called “tier zero” consideration – the most resources, and the most proactive, continuous oversight. Countries including Israel, Iran, Italy, and Germany all occupied a step down on “tier one,” according to the report.

According to The Verge, 30 countries are provided extra resources through Facebook’s tier-based moderation system, while the rest of the world is left with comparatively paltry oversight. The only way for Facebook to see any issues for countries in tier three would be for moderators to surface it directly, the documents reportedly said.

Facebook has faced criticism for years over issues with moderation, most recently for the service’s use as a tool in organizing the attempted insurrection on January 6.

Capitol Riot Trump Signs
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

In 2018, Facebook admitted it didn’t do enough to stop the spread of hate speech and violence in Myanmar.

“I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Vox in April 2018.

Worse: In countries like Myanmar, where Facebook is the main form of internet, those issues are amplified.

“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” the UN’s Myanmar investigator, Yanghee Lee, told the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018. “The ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities … I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”

For its part, Facebook said it is more flexible with moderation resources than the documents indicated.

“In a crisis, we will determine what kind of support and teams we need to dedicate to a particular country or language, and for how long we need to keep them in place,” Facebook director of human rights policy Miranda Sissons and international strategic response director Nicole Isaac wrote in a Monday morning blog post responding to the report.

Separately, when reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson provided Insider the following statement:

“We have dedicated teams working to stop abuse on our platform in countries where there is heightened risk of conflict and violence. We also have global teams with native speakers reviewing content in over 70 languages along with experts in humanitarian and human rights issues. They’ve made progress tackling difficult challenges – such as evolving hate speech terms – and built new ways for us to respond quickly to issues when they arise. We know these challenges are real and we are proud of the work we’ve done to date.”

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