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Facebook says needs to improve response to hate speech

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Facebook Inc admitted its systems to remove hate speech haven't worked as well as the company had hoped, amid reports that advertisers were pulling their brands off the social network in the face of a backlash from women's groups.

In a blog post by its safety team late Tuesday, the company acknowledged there had been problems with removing content that would be considered examples of gender-based hate.

"We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better - and we will," the company said in the post.

The British edition of MediaWeek reported on Wednesday that at least 13 brands pulled ads from Facebook in the wake of the campaign. The New York Times cited Japanese automaker Nissan as saying it had pulled all advertising off the social network until it received assurances that its ads would not appear alongside offensive content.

On Wednesday, Nissan spokesman David Reuter clarified that the company had asked Facebook to remove its ads from offensive pages that were visited by targeted users, and only from the British version of the social network. He said the automaker was not changing its advertising strategy with Facebook, with which it maintained a good relationship.

In its blog post on Tuesday, Facebook said it would update the guidelines used to evaluate hate speech, and would encourage existing online anti-hate groups to add representatives of women's organizations as well.

Last week, a group called Women, Action & the Media released an open letter to Facebook, urging the company to improve its response to content that "trivializes or glorifies violence against girls or women."

They also called for Facebook members to contact advertisers whose ads appeared next to such content.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz and Alex Cohen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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