Facebook says it suspended Bernie Sanders groups because of a 'glitch'
Bernie Sanders on Jimmy Kimmel Live (Screenshot)

A bug in Facebook’s anti-spam algorithm has been accidentally suspending groups on the social network, sparking anger from the groups’ founders and conspiracy theories from some of their followers.

On Monday night, six pro-Bernie Sanders groups were temporarily suspended by Facebook. A day later, five Facebook groups supporting Filipino presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, with a total membership of more than 3 million people, were also taken down for a short period.

In both cases, supporters and administrators of the groups initially blamed the outages on political opponents. On social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, false reports for spam or abusive behaviour can sometimes be enough to trigger automatic bans, if submitted in large enough quantities. One filipino supporter of Duterte suggested that “It takes over 1,000 reports under 30 minutes for a Facebook page takedown to be triggered,” and called on his opponents to “act like decent people!”

Similar reactions were evident amongst Sanders supporters, who blamed astroturfing by pro-Clinton political action committees.

But Facebook told technology site Recode that the outages were actually due to a glitch in its systems. “A number of groups were inaccessible for a brief period after one of our automated policies was applied incorrectly. We corrected the problem within hours and are working to improve our tools.”

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