Residents of “the Hoe” in Plymouth, UK, say they are really tired of being monitored by Facebook that is constantly checking their posts to ensure they are not denigrating sex workers.
The “Hoe” also called the “Plymouth Hoe” is one of the popular sites in the UK’s seafaring history. It is the place where Sir Francis Drake played his famous game of bowls in 1588 while waiting for the tide to change before sailing out with the English fleet to fight the Spanish Armada.
But now Facebook has found itself in trouble after flagging most posts from “the hoe” residents as bad! Whenever the residents mention the name of their city, Facebook automatically reads meaning into it, classifying their posts as offensive
The ancient city in the South of England has long endured a high rate of sanctions by Facebook and the residents now say they are tired!
Facebook apologized on Wednesday, promising to take steps to ensure residents and visitors can use the term freely in relation to the Devon landmark.
The social media giant said some words can be slurs or offensive if used in certain ways and certain contexts, but not in others. It admitted it was at fault in this case.
Recently, a Facebook moderator of the Plymouth Facebook group told users to be careful when typing the Hoe.
“Just a quick post to say anyone living Plymouth h o e, please don’t write it as one word,” they wrote. “Facebook are saying it’s harassment and muting people and giving them a Facebook ban. It’s not us doing that.”
A follower commented their posts have been removed many times because of typing The Hoe. “Now I am writing Oe,” the Facebook user said.
Another user said they’d tried typing “H O E,” including the capital letters and a space in-between — to no avail. “I got told off for bad language and could not comment for two days,” the user said.
Yet another user said she received an automatic warning by Facebook when she typed the “hoe”: “Are you sure you want to post this, it may be deemed offensive to some?”, Facebook auto message asked her.
A section of the Visit Plymouth website describes the Hoe as enjoying a “breathtaking panorama” with “unbeatable views across Plymouth Sound”. It is the “perfect place to spend a sunny day, enjoying a picnic on the grass or taking a dip in the art deco Tinside lido”.
In a statement to Plymouth-based users, a Facebook spokesperson said, “These posts were removed in error and we apologize to those who were affected. We’re looking into what happened and will take steps to rectify the error.”
In terms of moderating hate speech, Facebook Community Standards are meant to protect users from “violent or dehumanizing speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation,” according to their website.
In a 2017 blog post, Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, noted that understanding the context of flagged content has always been a challenge.
“We’ve had trouble enforcing this policy correctly recently, mainly due to the challenges of understanding the context,” he wrote of a separate circumstance involving the word “kalar,” which can be offensive toward Muslims, depending on the speaker.
“After further examination, we’ve been able to get it right. But we expect this to be a long-term challenge,” Allan concluded.
Before its colloquial use in the United States as slang for a prostitute, the homonym “hoe” or “ho” once also denoted sloping ridge landscape, crooked like the arch of a foot, according to Anglo-Saxon linguists.