Is Facebook’s New Content Moderation Patent an Attempt at Censorship?

Facebook recently applied for and was granted a patent that would give it a surprising amount of control over what users are able to view what posts, as well as posting privileges that are granted to certain users but not others. This content moderation patent, which has also been referred to as a “shadow banning patent” since the person that has been banned will be unaware of what is going on, has stirred up some controversy.

The cause of this controversy is that Facebook has a tendency to be pretty unethical about user data, and the amount of power that the social media company has in terms of the control it holds over political narratives and the like would make this patent seem like an attempt on Facebook’s part of censoring particular conversations that they would not like happening.
"Described embodiments enable a social networking system to block certain comments made by users in an online forum. An online forum may be characterized as a page on one or more topics wherein users may view content and provide comments. A forum creator or moderator may provide a request to block certain content from being displayed to forum users. Block requests may include, for example, a request to filter profane words, extremely negative, racist or derogatory comments, etc.", 
However, that being said, the fact of the matter is that the reason that Facebook filed this content moderation patent is not because the platform wants to start censoring posts or anything, rather it has to do with Facebook’s attempts at making its various groups more welcoming to new members and the like.

This patented new feature is going to give moderators and admins a little more power over who can post in groups and who can see what has been posted. This is intended to reduce the number of negative posts/comments that admins have to deal with and will help the moderators turn their groups into better communities that can actually help bring people together if they have interests that are more or less similar.



Photo: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

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