Facebook employs 766 Arabic-speaking moderators for 220 million Arabic-speaking users

By Martin Untersinger and Damien Leloup

Posted today at 6:29 p.m., updated at 19:21

The number of moderators that Facebook employs to moderate the content on its platform, and particularly their breakdown by language, is one of its best-kept secrets. The company has always refused to give this number, for any language whatsoever, although it is a valuable indicator to gauge the efforts that the social network is making to apply its rules and protect its users.

Also listen “Facebook Files”: in the disordered cogs of the company

For the first time, the “Facebook Files”, these documents copied by the former employee Frances Haugen and transmitted to several media, including The world, by an employee of the US Congress, lift some of this secrecy, at least for Arabic and its various dialects.

According to this document, written by a specialist on the subject within Facebook and dated fall 2020, Facebook employs 766 moderators to carry out all the manual moderation of content posted by its 220 million users in the Arabic-speaking world – one of the areas where users are the most active and where, moreover, the geopolitical situation can be very tense.

About thirty dialects

Facebook does not dispute the authenticity of these figures, but argues that they do not represent all of the people working to remove prohibited content. The social network points out that certain types of messages that are not allowed, such as nude photos or videos, can be processed without the moderators speaking the user’s language. Facebook also claims to have recruited more Arabic-speaking moderators since this internal memo written in the fall of 2020.

“We are constantly working to improve our moderation skills in Arabic, but we recognize that we still have work to do on this subject”, explains to World a spokesperson for the social network.

“Moderation of messages in Arabic poses a number of challenges. There are over twenty very different dialects, spoken in thirty countries in which political, social and cultural conditions vary. “

The social network also explains “Consider many different options to meet these challenges, including hiring more moderators who are proficient in multiple languages, and therefore able to redirect specific requests to other moderators when needed. “

Facebook was looking at the time to estimate what were its shortcomings to cover certain Arabic dialects

The document which details Facebook’s Arabic-speaking moderation staff is based on an exhaustive internal review: Facebook was looking at the time to estimate what were its shortcomings to cover certain Arabic dialects. Indeed, Arabic, apart from its most formal declension which can be understood by most speakers, is a family of around thirty dialects: some can be understood by speakers of other dialects, others are incomprehensible to each other. In 2020, Facebook therefore carried out a major study with its moderators to better understand which versions of Arabic they understood a little, very well, or not at all.

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Facebook employs 766 Arabic-speaking moderators for 220 million Arabic-speaking users