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Why Is Facebook Marking So Many News Posts About Coronavirus as Spam?

Affected sites include Washington Post, USA Today and TheWrap

In what appears to be a widespread problem, on Tuesday Facebook began flagging articles and posts about the COVID-19 virus as spam, affecting a wide variety of legitimate news outlets including some of the biggest publications in the country.

The issue also appears to have affected a smaller number of articles not related to coronavirus.

Throughout the day users across social media, including CBS News reporter Kathryn Watson and Wired writer and author Steve Silberman, reported that attempts to post articles were met with an automatic message that the post was spam. Affected sites included outlets like the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, The Times of Israel, Buzzfeed, Medium, The Atlantic and Politico.

USA Today also reported that it experienced the same issue. And TheWrap can also confirm that attempts to post articles about coronavirus and unrelated topics were met with warnings that the content was “spam,” or “abusive.”

Facebook has not yet issued a formal statement explaining the error or how it will be corrected but on Twitter, the company’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said the issue was a “bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce,” and that Facebook was working to bring the posts back online. Rosen also promised more updates “soon.”

Rosen did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from TheWrap. But a Facebook representative told TheWrap that the company routinely employs automated means of enforcing anti-spam politics. The representative also echoed Rosen in saying that the issue didn’t involve and changes to Facebook’s content moderation staff.