Facebook has apologized after posts by users voicing their concern about the deadly earthquake in Indonesia were mistakenly festooned with animated balloons and confetti by the social network.
An earthquake Sunday killed at least 131 people, including some who perished inside buildings that had been weakened by an earlier July 29 quake on the tourist island of Lombok.
A Facebook algorithm reportedly misinterpreted the Indonesian word “selamat,” in the posts, triggering the inappropriate animations. Depending on the context, “selamat” can mean “unhurt” or “congratulations,” according to the BBC.
“After the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Lombok, Facebook users wrote ‘I hope people will survive’. Then Facebook highlighted the word ‘selamat’ and throw some balloons and confetti,” tweeted Herman Saksono, a doctoral student in computer science at Northeastern University.
Facebook subsequently told Saksono that the feature had been disabled.
“This feature (a text animation triggered by typing ‘congrats’) is widely available on Facebook globally, however we regret that it appeared in this unfortunate context and have since turned off the feature locally,” a Facebook spokesperson told Motherboard. “Our hearts go out to the people affected by the earthquake.”
Facebook’s algorithms are in the spotlight at the moment. The social network, for example, recently tagged an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence as hate speech. Facebook subsequently acknowledging its error and restored the post.
Despite algorithmic errors, Facebook continues to ramp up its efforts around AI to better serve society. The social network has already harnessed the technology to help blind people ‘see’ the platform and also flag posts by people thinking of harming themselves.
Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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