Facebook and spam: Not everything is relevant

If Facebook's algorithms determine a comment you make is "low value," they can refuse to post it.

Facebook has gained its massive following in part by making everything you say relevant to someone. But apparently that doesn't extend to the social network's spam filter.

If Facebook's algorithms determine a comment you make is "low value," they can refuse to post it. At least that's what happened recently when tech pundit Robert Scoble tried to comment on a Facebook post by Carnegie Mellon student Max Woolf.

The fact that Facebook's spam filter blocked Scoble's comment and called it "irrelevant or inappropriate" is ironic on a number of levels.

First, thousands of people generally find both Scoble's and Woolf's everyday musings on technology highly relevant. Scoble's got more than 255,000 followers on Twitter, nearly 240,000 subscribers on Facebook and 1.3 million people have put him in their circles on Google+. And Max Woolf, who comments endlessly on the website TechCrunch, has quite a good Facebook following himself.

It's also interesting that the comment Scoble was trying to make was in response to Woolf's views about an article discussing the relevancy (of all things) of Pando Daily, another tech blog that a writer for The Kernel said is losing traffic because of "a disappointing lack of proper journalism."

Not only that, the very nature of Facebook is irrelevant, isn't it? If I had a dollar for every post my friends have shared about what they're eating, how much they're exercising and other rot, I'd be set. Who even knew that Facebook had a spam filter and wouldn't you think it would work better than it does? Ever seen one of those ridiculous free iPad giveaway spams float down your stream?

Anyway, Facebook jumped all over this little drama and promptly responded to ZDNet, which originally broke the story as well as to Scoble himself.

Apparently Facebook doesn't want people thinking that it's censoring user posts. A company spokesperson told ZDNet the blocking of Scoble's comment was probably a false positive caused by an automatic spam filter and that Facebook engineers are investigating the situation.

When Facebook talked to Scoble the company said several things could have flagged his post. For example, the spam filter is stricter for subscriber posts from people who aren't Facebook friends. And apparently the system viewed the several links to websites Scoble tried to include in his comments spam-like behavior.

"I actually appreciate that Facebook is trying to do something about comment quality," Scoble wrote on Google+. "I had to recently change my privacy settings to only allow friends of friends to comment on my posts because I was getting so many poor comments on my posts (when I did that the poor quality posts instantly stopped)."

Follow Christina on Twitter and Google+ for even more tech news and commentary and follow Today@PCWorld on Twitter, too.

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Christina DesMarais

PC World (US online)
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