Facebook AI boss Yann LeCun goes off in Twitter rant, blames talk radio for hate content


Yann LeCun, the world-renowned AI guru on Facebook, had some issues with an article written about his company yesterday. So he did what each of us would do, he took to social media to voice his grievances.

Only, he did not lead the fight on Facebook as you might expect. Instead, over a span of several hours, he went back and forth with a lot of people on Twitter.

Can we stop for a moment and appreciate that, on a random Thursday in March, the father of Facebook’s AI program kicks in? Twitter to discuss an article by reporter Karen Hao, AI reporter for MIT’s Technology Review?

Hao wrote an amazing long feature on Facebook’s content moderation problem. The article is titled “How Facebook Got Addicted to Spreading Disinformation,” and the caption is a doozy:

The company’s AI algorithms have given it an insatiable habit of lies and hate speech. Now the man who built them cannot solve the problem.

I will quote here only one paragraph from Hao’s article which captures its essence:

Everything the company does and chooses not to do is driven by one motivation: Zuckerberg’s relentless desire for growth … [Facebook AI lead Joaquin Quiñonero Candela’s] AI expertise has accelerated this growth. As I learned in my reports, his team set out to target AI bias, as preventing AI bias helps the company avoid a regulatory proposal that could, if passed, hamper this growth. Facebook’s leadership has also repeatedly weakened or halted many initiatives to eliminate disinformation on the platform, as it would undermine that growth.

There’s a lot to unbox out there, but the bottom line is that Facebook is driven by the singular goal of “growth.” The same could be said of cancer.

LeCun, apparently, did not like the article. He jumped on the app Jack made and shared his thoughts, including what appear to be personal attacks questioning Hao’s journalistic integrity:

His shade extended yesterday to blame radio and journalism for his business woes:

Really Yann? Is the increased polarization via disinformation uniquely American? Have you met my friend “The Reason Every War Has Ever Been Waged In Ever History?”

I digress.

It wouldn’t be the first time he took to Twitter to defend his company, but more yesterday was happening than it seems. LeCun’s tirade began with a tweet announcing new equity research from Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Team (FAIR).

According to Hao, Facebook coordinated the publication of the document to coincide with the Tech Review article:

Based on the evidence, it appears Facebook was absolutely shocked by Hao’s reporting. It seems that the social network was expecting information on the progress made in strengthening its algorithms, detecting bias and combating hate speech. Instead, Hao laid bare Facebook’s core problem: it’s a spider’s web.

These are my words, not Hao’s. What they wrote was:

Towards the end of our hour-long interview … [Quiñonero] began to point out that AI was often unfairly labeled ‘culprit’. Whether or not Facebook uses AI, he said, people would still spit out lies and hate speech, and that content would still spill over the platform.

If I had to rephrase this to have an impact I could say something like ‘no matter if our company dumps gasoline on the ground and gives everyone a book of matches, we’re still going to have wildfires. . ” But, again, these are my words.

And when I say Facebook is a spider web, what I mean is: spider webs are good, until they get too big. For example, if you see a spider web in the corner of your barn, that’s great! This means that you have a little arachnid warrior who helps you take down the nastiest bugs. But if you see a spider web covering your entire city, like something from “Kingdom of the Spiders”, that’s really a bad thing.

Spider kingdom