Facebook apologizes after mistaking Trump social media director for bot

Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 18:34:13-04

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook said Tuesday it had apologized to White House social media director Dan Scavino for temporarily blocking some features on his account for a few hours Monday.

In a statement, the social media giant also said its automated systems mistook Scavino for a bot.

Scavino wrote on Facebook on Monday he was being blocked from replying to comments on the platform.

“AMAZING. WHY ARE YOU STOPPING ME from replying to comments followers have left me – on my own Facebook Page!!?? People have the right to know. Why are you silencing me???,” Scavino wrote.

President Donald Trump also weighed in Tuesday, tweeting that he would be “looking into” the issue with Scavino’s account, which had already been restored.

Later in the day, during a joint press conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, he returned to the issue, saying, “There’s discrimination, there’s big discrimination,” and adding, “Something’s happening with those groups of folks that are running Facebook, and Google, and Twitter, and I do think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

As in Scavino’s case, such complaints about bias have often been found to stem from legitimate violations of the platforms’ rules or mistakes by the platforms or both, rather than actual discrimination against conservatives.

In a statement issued soon after the president’s tweet, a Facebook spokesperson explained, “In order to stop automated bots, we cap the amount of identical, repetitive activity coming from one account in a short period of time, such as @mentioning people. These limits can have the unintended consequence of temporarily preventing real people like Dan Scavino from engaging in such activity, but lift in an hour or two, which is what happened in this case.”

The company added: “We’ve been in touch with him and have apologized for the inconvenience.”