Facebook Moderators' Identities Exposed to Terrorists

The security glitch, which lasted for a month before Facebook was able to correct it in November, made the moderators' profiles appear in the notifications of Facebook groups that are thought to administrated by terrorists with ties to ISIS, Hezbollah and the Kurdistan Workers Party, according to a moderator who spoke with the Guardian.

One day after the social-media company explained how, in the wake of recent terror attacks, it is using sophisticated artificial-intelligence software to detect text, image, and video posts related to terrorism, The Guardian reports that an unfortunate "bug", affecting more than 1,000 of Facebook's content moderators, accidentally exposed some of their identities to the very suspected terrorists whose content they were monitoring.

Facebook's head of global investigations, Craig D'Souza, sought to alleviate concerns by telling the group there was "a good chance" suspected terrorists would not identify them as moderators. Forty of the exposed content moderators worked in Facebook's counter-terrorism unit. Facebook said it is now testing a moderation system that does not require use of personal profiles.

One moderator from Ireland, who was among hundreds of "community operations analysts" contracted by the company Cpl Recruitment, ended up leaving the country fearing for his safety.

When reached for comment about the report, a Facebook spokesperson acknowledged the security flaw and subsequent investigation, but asserted the company feels it took the necessary actions to keep its contractors safe.

"Last year, we learned that the names of certain people who work for Facebook to enforce our policies could have been viewed by a specific set of Group admins within their admin activity log", the spokesperson wrote. It says it has "fixed" the issue and conducted a "thorough investigation" that includes a risk assessment for each affected worker. "I'm not waiting for a pipe bomb to be mailed to my address until Facebook does something about it".

The spokesman said the company assessed the level risk for each affected moderator, and the company contacted each of them individually to offer support, which didn't end after the investigation wrapped. This led to a bug in which a moderator's personal information showed up in the group's activity log. The data exposure affected 1,000 workers in total, who moderate terrorist propaganda and other content that Facebook bans, like sexually explicit material.

A Facebook spokesperson admitted the work could be hard, adding that the company provided psychological support and wellness resources to people working in these roles. "When you come from a war zone and you have people like that knowing your family name you know that people get butchered for that". He told The Guardian that he is now unemployed, suffers from anxiety and is on antidepressants.

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