As Facebook works on new tools to stop the spread of misinformation on its network, it's seeking to patent technology that could be used for that purpose. This month the US Trademark and Patent Office published Facebook's application for Patent 0350675: "systems and methods to identify objectionable content." The application, which was filed in June 2015, describes a sophisticated system for identifying inappropriate text and images and removing them from the network.
As described in the application, the primary purpose of the tool is to improve the detection of pornography, hate speech, and bullying. But last month, Zuckerberg highlighted the need for "better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves." The patent published Thursday, which is still pending approval, offers some ideas for how such a system could work.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company often seeks patents for technology that it never implements, and said this patent should not be taken as an indication of the company's future plans. The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it was now in use.
The system described in the application is largely consistent with Facebook's own descriptions of how it currently handles objectionable content. But it also adds a layer of machine learning to make reporting bad posts more efficient, and to help the system learn common markers of objectionable content over time — tools that sound similar to the anticipatory flagging that Zuckerberg says is needed to combat fake news.