Facebook Monitors Self-Censorship When You Type and Don’t Hit Send

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We were stunned to discover that Facebook is monitoring your self-censorship! When you type something but don’t send it (this is what is meant by self-censoring on Facebook), Facebook takes note of that self-censorship! And Facebook is analyzing that self-censoring behaviour. And remember that the NSA has its fingers in Facebook’s data.


In a study last week entitled Self-Censorship on Facebook, Facebook admits this. In the Facebook Self-Censorship study*, Facebook openly states that “For our purposes, we operationalize “self censorship” as any nontrivial content that users began to write on Facebook but ultimately did not post.”

The paper, written by Facebook data researcher Adam D.I. Kramer, and Sauvik Das of Carnegie Mellon University, who was an intern at Facebook during the summer, analyzes the “typing but not posting behaviour” of 3.9 million Facebook users (or 5 million, depending on what part of the study you read) over 17 days.

facebook self censorship study

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*Curiously, the originals of this paper have disappeared (hence the link to archive.org) and been replaced by a sanitized version not mentioning Facebook’s taking note of self-censorship, such as here.

In addition to analyzing when you start to type something and then abandon it (both for status updates and comments), they take note of whether it is content for your timeline, or to be sent to a group, etc.. In other words, they note when you “censor” yourself, and then can correlate it with how often you start to type something to whom. This means that if you start to type something in a group or on a page, and then think better of it because you don’t want to out yourself as aligned with that group – it’s too late.

Further, they correlated various known things about the users, such as demographic information like their age group, their sex, and even their political affilliations. As we wrote about last week, Facebook has patented a method for inferring your income, as well. Put this all together with this latest way of analyzing who you are and what you do, and it makes for an interesting picture indeed.

You can read the full Facebook Censorship Study here.

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