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5 Takeaways From Facebook’s Leaked Moderation Documents




Sometimes an emoji is just an emoji. Sometimes it may be a threat.

And with only a few seconds to spare, Facebook moderators have to make the call — even if the text that accompanies the laughing yellow face is in an unfamiliar language.

To help with those decisions, Facebook has created a list of guidelines for what its two billion users should be allowed to say. The rules, which are regularly updated, are then given to its moderators.

For Facebook, the goal is clarity. But for the thousands of moderators across the world, faced with navigating this byzantine maze of rules as they monitor billions of posts per day in over 100 languages, clarity is hard to come by.

Facebook keeps its rulebooks and their existence largely secret. But The New York Times acquired 1,400 pages from these guidelines, and found problems not just in how the rules are drafted but in the way the moderation itself is done.

[You can read the report by Max Fisher here.]

Here are five takeaways from our story:

The rules are discussed over breakfast every other Tuesday in a conference room in Menlo Park, Calif. — far from the social unrest that Facebook has been accused of accelerating.

Though the company does consult outside groups, the rules are set largely by young lawyers and engineers, most of whom have no experience in the regions of the world they are making decisions about.

The rules they create appear to be written for English speakers who at times rely on Google Translate. That suggests a lack of moderators with local language skills who might better understand local contexts.

Facebook employees say they have not yet figured out, definitively, what sorts of posts can lead to violence or political turmoil. The rulebooks are best guesses.

Some of the rules given to moderators are inaccurate, outdated or missing critical nuance.

One presentation, for example, refers to the Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladic as a fugitive, though he was arrested in 2011.

Another appears to contain errors about Indian law, advising moderators that almost any criticism of religion should be flagged as probably illegal. In fact, criticizing religion is only illegal when it is intended to inflame violence, according to a legal scholar.

In Myanmar, a paperwork error allowed a prominent extremist group, accused of fomenting genocide, to stay on the platform for months.

Facebook outsources moderation to companies that hire the thousands of workers who enforce the rules. In some of these offices, moderators say they are expected to review many posts within eight to 10 seconds. The work can be so demanding that many moderators only last a few months.

The moderators say they have little incentive to contact Facebook when they run across flaws in the process. For its part, Facebook largely allows the companies that hire the moderators to police themselves.

Facebook is growing more assertive about barring groups and people, as well as types of speech, that it believes could lead to violence.

In countries where the line between extremism and mainstream politics is blurry, the social network’s power to ban some groups and not others means that it is, in essence, helping pick political winners and losers.

Sometimes it removes political parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece, as well as mainstream religious movements in Asia and the Middle East. This can be akin to Facebook shutting down one side in national debates, one expert argues.

Some interventions are more subtle. During elections in Pakistan, it told moderators to apply extra scrutiny to one party, but called another “benign.”

And its decisions often skew in favor of governments, which can fine or regulate Facebook.

Even as Facebook tries to limit dangerous content on its platform, it is working to grow its audience in more countries.

That tension can sometimes be seen in the guidelines.

Moderators reviewing posts about Pakistan, for example, are warned against creating a “PR fire” by doing anything that might “have a negative impact on Facebook’s reputation or even put the company at legal risk.”

And by relying on outsourced workers to do most of the moderation, Facebook can keep costs down even as it sets rules for over two billion users.


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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton




OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training




Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test




While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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