Facebook cracks down on discussing ‘hoes’ in gardening group

Facebook’s censors are digging deep — flagging the word “hoe” in a western New York gardening group because they apparently confused the tool for a disparaging term for women.

A group called WNY Gardeners has been repeatedly flagged by the social network for “violating community standards,” when its more than 7,500 members discussed the long-handled bladed implement, which is spelled with an “e,” unlike the offensive term.

When one member commented “Push pull hoe!” on a post about preferred weeding tools, Facebook sent a notification that read, “We reviewed this comment and found it goes against our standards for harassment and bullying,” a moderator said.

“And so I contacted Facebook, which was useless. How do you do that?,” Elizabeth Licata said. “You know, I said this is a gardening group, a hoe is gardening tool.”

Facebook
Facebook didn’t respond to the group after the mistake was brought to the company’s attention.
AFP via Getty Images

Licata said she never a response from the company, but a Facebook representative told The Associated Press that some of the enforcements had been corrected, and an actual person will check supposedly offensive posts in the future before the group is sanctioned or deleted.

“We have plans to build out better customer support for our products and to provide the public with even more information about our policies and how we enforce them,” Facebook said in an emailed statement.

The extra set of eyes did not prevent a subsequent post in the group from being automatically disabled because of “possible violence, incitement, or hate in multiple comments,” Licata said.

“Kill them all. Drown them in soapy water,” and “Japanese beetles are jerks,” were some comments Facebook deemed offensive, according to the moderator.

The gardening group snafu was not Facebook’s first hoe faux pas.

This winter, the social network apologized to residents of Plymouth Hoe, an area of the coastal city of Plymouth in England, for repeatedly flagging posts that referenced the seaside attraction.

“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,” Facebook said at the time.

With AP wires