In a bizarre incident, the social media platform Facebook's algorithm recently got hoodwinked by a photo onions which it claimed was "overtly sexual".
The incident occurred in September when a photo of premium Walla Walla onions was displayed on the Facebook page of a Canadian seed seller. The shop, named The Seed Company by EW Gaze, was posting the photos of the rounded, juicy-looking onions in order to make a sale.
Facebook, however, seemed to find the image rather suggestive. Soon, the photo of the onions had been removed with the warning to Gaze that the image violated the platform's policies by being too explicit or "overtly sexual".
The surprised storekeepers took to the platform and posted a screenshot of the message they got from Facebook as well as the objectionable onion photo in question.
"So we just got notified by Facebook that the photo used for our Walla Walla Onion seed is "Overtly Sexual" and therefore cannot be advertised to be sold on their platform...Can you see it?" The Seed Company asked on Facebook.
Not just on social media, the "sexy" onions went viral across legacy media as well. They even found a mention on comedian Trevor Noah's 'The Daily Show'.
As the post went viral on social media, Facebook had to retract its suspension of the photo and also apologized to Gaze for the error.
Speaking to the BBC, store manager Jackson McLean said that perhaps the error on Facebook's part occurred due to the "suggestive" shape of thew Walla Walla onions.
Facebook uses strict algorithms to control nudity and pornography on the platform. Perhaps the rounded, light-toned onions appeared rather like certain parts of the body to the algorithm?
This, nevertheless, is not the first time the platform's algorithm has been criticized by users for unfairly blocking content. In 2016, the platform was for removing a photo of the "napalm girl", a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo shared by a Norwegian journalist and newspaper editor to reflect on the horrors of war, according to Facebook's 'Community Standards', the photo violated rules of nudity. It had to later reinstate the photo after public outrage.