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I'm Glad Facebook Is Reading Your Instant Messages

Facebook scans, and sometimes reads, your Facebook Messenger instant messages, the company confirmed to Bloomberg News yesterday (April 4). Believe it or not, however, this sounds like a good thing rather than an invasion of privacy.

Credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock

(Image credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock)

What happens is that Facebook's computers scan each Messenger message for malicious or questionable links or images, the company said. If the computers find something suspicious, they pass the message on to human moderators, and if the humans determine that the message does contain objectionable content, it is blocked or deleted.

But don't get out the pitchforks just yet. Facebook's algorithms are looking for child pornography, malware and incitement to genocide. (Don't scoff: Social media has been used to stir up vigilante mobs in Myanmar's ongoing ethnic-cleansing campaign, for example.)

The algorithms make sure that the messages conform to Facebook's "community standards," the same set of standards to which regular Facebook posts must adhere.

MORE: The Quick and Dirty Facts About Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

I'm glad that Facebook Messenger isn't being used to spread malware or kiddie porn, or to incite mass killings. No company wants to be associated with that sort of thing, and most Facebook users would be happy not to see it pop up in their feeds or messages.

In any case, if you're bothered by the notion of Facebook reading your messages, there are dozens of other communications platforms that offer greater privacy — and, for better or for worse, have fewer restrictions on what you can disseminate.

You can start with Facebook's own WhatsApp, which encrypts messages end-to-end so that only the sender and recipient — not the company itself — can read them. If you're so inclined, you can delve into the darker depths of the internet to find all sorts of horrible things to discuss. Just don't expect Facebook, or me, to help you.

  • lee.co
    I guess its's okay if they are scanning for child pornography and malware, but it is scary to think that sensitive information could be recorded and leaked as well. Facebook has certainly been getting into the spotlight recently, hasn't it?
    Reply
  • Paul Wagenseil
    20861487 said:

    I guess its's okay if they are scanning for child pornography and malware, but it is scary to think that sensitive information could be recorded and leaked as well. Facebook has certainly been getting into the spotlight recently, hasn't it?

    It's not clear whether Facebook is documenting the reasons it blocks or deletes messages, but it certainly could be.

    As for the unwanted publicity, these scandals are all own-goals. Facebook could have avoided them if it had been more transparent all along about what it was doing. Google can be just as intrusive, but the difference is that it generally tells its users what it's doing.

    Reply
  • beautifulceilingsinc
    facebook offers the chance to opt into end to end encryption so its not about child porn its about stealing then selling your personal data, wake up and smell the coffee. theyalsoown whats appencrypted all
    Reply