There was plenty of fun to be at Facebook and Instagram’s expense after a glitch earlier this week prevented users from uploading pictures or videos. And then it got worse. Like, dystopian sci-fi flick worse.

The Verge compiled some screenshots from users, showing blank boxes with text descriptions where photos would have usually appeared. For example, “Image may contain one or more people, people, sitting, shoes, and indoor.” 

images with text
The Verge

Thing is, the picture descriptions were not typed out by the uploader—they were intuited by Facebook’s artificial intelligence. For some people, this felt like some Orwellian 1984 situation where robots are automatically analyzing our pictures and saving information about them.

It is true that these tags come from Facebook’s AI, but its main purpose is not to spy on you—it’s to help those who can’t see still enjoy their friends’ and family’s Facebook content. The AI analyzes pictures that are uploaded, and then people who have text to speech enabled on their device hear the description read out loud to them when they come to the photo in their feed.

It’s not clear whether Facebook also uses the target ads at users.



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