Yes, folks, you read that right. Facebook banned a photo of onions posted to the Facebook page of Canada-based seed company, Gaze Seed Company for being “overtly sexual”. The company used the image in a Facebook ad in order to sell Walla Walla sweet onion seeds on the platform when they were told that the image went against their advertising policies.
The image used in the ad is of the seed packaging and shows a handful of the company’s onions in a wicker basket, which the Facebook says were positioned in a “sexually suggestive manner”. According to Gaze Seed Company, however, the controversy has brought them more sales than the ad ever would have on its own.
So we just got notified by Facebook that the photo used for our Walla Walla Onion seed is "Overtly Sexual" and therefore cannot be advertised to be sold on their platform… ? Can you see it?
One of the managers at Gaze Seed Company, Jackson McLean told CBC…
We got notified the other day that it’s an ‘overtly sexual image’ that they had to ban from the site. I guess something about the two round shapes there could be misconstrued as boobs or something, nude in some way.
I just thought it was funny. You’d have to have a pretty active imagination to look at that and get something sexual out of it… ‘Overtly sexual’, as in there’s no way of mistaking it as not sexual.
The company had a little fun, trying to come up with images of what it thinks Facebook thought it saw. The company, naturally, appealed the decision, and the advert has now been restored, but not before it was featured on such platforms as The Daily Show (skip to 3:45). Facebook Canada’s head of communications, Meg Sinclair, told the BBC, “We use automated technology to keep nudity off our apps, but sometimes it doesn’t know a Walla Walla onion from a, well, you know”.
Not surprisingly, Facebook’s AI isn’t infallible. Facebook says in the first six months of 2020, they removed 75.2 million pieces of content due to “adult nudity and sexual activity”. This number they say is lower than usual due to the decreased workforce as a result of COVID-19. So, this suggests that many of them are being checked by humans, too, but it’s no surprise that the AI sometimes slips up.
How it could possibly confuse the onions on this seed packet with something “overtly sexual”, though… Well, I’ve no idea what it thinks it saw.
Gaze Seed Company has been in great humour about the whole thing, relisting the Walla Walla Onions under “Sexy Onions” on their website. Mr McLean also told the BBC that they’ve now sold more of them in the last three days than they have in the last five years as a result of the controversy.
Eggplant season should be interesting.
[via The BBC]