Why KTOO’s Facebook page was sanctioned by Facebook

You may have heard recently about an incident involving KTOO’s Facebook page, in which Facebook incorrectly flagged two of KTOO’s posts as “clickbait,” then subsequently punished KTOO by reducing the distribution of all our Facebook posts in users’ newsfeeds.

Because the incident has garnered some national attention, we wanted to offer an explanation of what happened and where things stand.

On Friday, Oct. 4, the KTOO Facebook page’s administrators received a notification from Facebook claiming that KTOO had “repeatedly shared clickbait.” The notification warned that pages that share clickbait repeatedly “will have all distribution reduced even if those posts have been deleted.”

Facebook identified two specific posts as clickbait.

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KTOO disagreed with Facebook’s assessment and followed Facebook’s procedure to request additional review of its decision.

On Monday, Facebook notified KTOO that its internal review was complete, and it upheld its original determination.

(KTOO screenshot)

As a result, Facebook reduced distribution of KTOO’s Facebook posts, meaning Facebook users would see fewer posts from KTOO’s page in their newsfeeds. According to Facebook, this action would be in effect for two weeks.

KTOO contested Facebook’s decision, as we have no intention of producing or sharing clickbait on social media, nor do we believe that the two posts flagged by Facebook meet any commonly-understood criteria for clickbait, including Facebook’s own criteria.

But after the first request for review, Facebook did not provide any additional procedures through which KTOO could communicate with Facebook about its decision. So after the review by Facebook concluded that the posts were clickbait, KTOO’s creative services director David Purdy posted an account of these events in a Facebook group for NPR stations. A Facebook employee who is a member of that group saw Purdy’s post and got in contact by email.

Since Monday, KTOO has been in contact with that Facebook representative via email. We were told on Tuesday that Facebook was considering reviewing our case again. On Wednesday, Facebook’s representative thanked KTOO for its patience and explained that KTOO’s Facebook page had been flagged in error.

“We reviewed your Page again and found and resolved an issue that was flagging some of your posts in error. Within the next few days the warning should be removed from the Page Quality tab and the demotion will no longer be in effect,” the Facebook representative wrote in an email, apologizing for the inconvenience.

In response, KTOO asked the representative why the error wasn’t caught after the initial request for review, and if we should expect similar errors to occur in the future.

On Thursday morning, Facebook’s representative wrote back: “The initial appeal you requested unfortunately just was not able to uncover the issue that was flagging some of your posts in error. This should now be fixed with your page going forward, however, if you experience any issues like this in the future, please feel free to bring them to my attention as soon as you notice them and we will work again to get them resolved.”

This incident gained broader attention after KTOO’s digital media editor Ryan Cunningham shared a series of tweets on Monday explaining what happened. Those tweets have been shared widely, leading to interest from several reporters at national outlets.

KTOO currently has no plans to change the way it uses Facebook or presents its news coverage on Facebook. However, in light of this incident, members of our newsroom have been having candid discussions about whether Facebook aligns with our organization’s priorities and journalistic values.

We thank everyone for their continued support of KTOO’s news coverage. Right now, we’re not planning to change the way we deliver our news. But as we think about the best ways to reach the communities we serve, we are curious how you usually find stories from KTOO.

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