Facebook Won’t Forget Your Weirdest Posts, Even If You Do

Facebook recently suggested that I search for my fiancee’s little sister “licking batter.”

I am neither kidding nor surprised, but yeah, it’s kind of weird.

Facebook just suggested that I search for my fiancée’s little sister “licking batter” pic.twitter.com/24Ls39KnyP

— Damon Beres (@dlberes) January 12, 2016

At the very same time, it also recommended that I search for a dear friend with the keyword “nudist” attached. This was a bit surprising, as I’ve only seen him fully clothed, but hey, new year, new you.

Here’s why each of those two things happened: Facebook is deeply invested in developing superior “machine learning” techniques. It wants its software to recognize things about data — your words and photographs — that make sense to people but not necessarily computers. Think about the way you talk and read facial cues, for example: How do you get a device to work with language and expressions in a way that feels human? That’s tricky, and suggested search is just one small part of Facebook’s overall machine learning efforts.

Lord only knows why Facebook decided late Monday night was the time for ‘licking batter’ and ‘nudist.’

There’s really nothing new about this feature, though I can’t remember a time when it startled me more. Essentially, it generates suggestions according to what you’ve searched for before and what you’ve done on Facebook. I probably have searched for both of the people Facebook suggested to me, and I’ve definitely interacted with their posts before.

Facebook itself has been candid about its machine learning mission in the past. For example, its head of artificial intelligence, Yann LeCun, once discussed algorithms that would allow Facebook to recognize when you look intoxicated in a photo you’re about to post and —> Read More