San Francisco, Jun 17: : A report on Friday alleged that Facebook had put the safety of its content moderators at risk after accidentally exposing their personal details to suspected terrorist users of the social network.
As per The Guardian, a bug in the software, identified in late 2016, affected more than 1,000 workers across 22 departments at Facebook, who used the company"s moderation software to review and remove inappropriate content from the platform, including sexual material, hate speech and terrorist propaganda.
This all started after Facebook moderators started receiving friend requests from people affiliated with the terrorist organisations they were scrutinising.
It was later discovered by the company that the personal Facebook profiles of its moderators had been automatically appearing in the activity logs of the terror groups they were shutting down.
The report added that “of the 1,000 affected workers, around 40 worked in a counter-terrorism unit based at Facebook"s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Six of those were assessed to be `high priority` victims of the mistake after Facebook concluded their personal profiles were likely viewed by potential terrorists.”
Upon coming to know about the glitch, one of the six workers fled Ireland and went into hiding in eastern Europe for five months.
The Iraqi-born Irish citizen, who is in his early twenties, said he found out that seven individuals associated with a suspected terrorist group he banned from Facebook – an Egypt-based group that backed Hamas and, he said, had members who were Islamic State sympathizers – had viewed his personal profile.
"The security glitch, which lasted for a month before Facebook was able to correct it in November, made the moderators' profiles appear in the notifications of Facebook groups that are thought to be administrated by terrorists with ties to Islamic State, Hezbollah and the Kurdistan Workers Party," the report quoted a moderator as saying.
The moderator revealed about his family's tryst with terrorism in the past - his father had been abducted and beaten, and his uncle executed in Iraq.
Confirming the security breach, a Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian that the website had made technical changes to "better detect and prevent these types of issues from occurring".
"We care deeply about keeping everyone who works for Facebook safe. As soon as we learned about the issue, we fixed it and began a thorough investigation to learn as much as possible about what happened," the spokesperson added.
After the leak was detected, Facebook convened a "task force of data scientists, community operations and security investigators".
The internal e-mails of Facebook revealed that the company warned all the employees and contracted staff it believed were affected, and also set-up an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to field queries from those affected.
"For those in the high-risk group, Facebook also offered counselling through its employee assistance program, over and above counselling offered by the contractor, Cpl. It also offered to install a home alarm monitoring system and provide transport to and from work to the six," the report said.
However, the moderator, who went into hiding, said that Facebook needed to do more to address their pressing concerns for their safety and families.
The moderator has filed a legal claim against Facebook and Cpl, seeking compensation for the psychological damage caused by the leak.
Facebook 'leaked' moderators' identities to suspected terrorists