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Hoe no! Facebook snafu spells trouble for gardening group

Facebook Garden Hoe Mixup
Posted at 7:23 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 19:23:41-04

Moderating a Facebook gardening group in western New York is not without challenges.

There are complaints of wooly bugs, inclement weather, and the novice members who insist on using dish detergent on their plants.

And then there's the word "hoe."

Facebook's algorithms sometimes flag this particular word as "violating community standards," apparently referring to a different word, one without an "e" at the end that is nonetheless often misspelled as the garden tool.

When it comes to Facebook's automated system, it'll flag posts that are offensive and then delete them.

But when it comes to Facebook groups, if a member or an administrator violates the social media company's rules too much, the entire group could be shut down.

Elizabeth Licata, a group moderator for WNY Gardeners that boasts more than 7,500 members, said it has been futile trying to reach Facebook to correct the mistake.

When it comes to the word hoe, which is a rake, a harrow, or a rototill, Licata said she wasn't going to ban the word from the group.

But when a member of the group used the word "hoe" on a post about gardening tolls, Facebook flagged the comment and said, "it goes against our standards for harassment and bullying.”

According to the AP, although Facebook uses both human moderators and artificial intelligence to weed out words that go against its standards, it's more than likely AI flagged the comment over a human because AI cannot differentiate between words at times.