‘Sexy onions’ got rejected by Facebook for ad-campaign

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'Sexy onions' got rejected by Facebook for ad-campaign - We The World
Photo by Lars Blankers on Unsplash

Turns out, some onions are just too sexy for Facebook.

A glitch in facebook’s automated technology that judges content for appropriation before publication rejected an advertisement request of Walla Walla onions for being too sexy.

Turns out, it was a glitch in the platform’s automated technology that decides the appropriateness of some content as per the company’s policy of nudity.

The loophole came onto the surface after a Newfoundland company called The Seed Company by EW Gaze’s advertisement request for Walla Walla onion seeds was turned down for being “overtly sexual,” the BBC reported.

Preview of the advert showing a pile of Walla Walla onions that was initially rejected by Facebook (Image courtesy of The Seed Company by EW Gaze via Facebook)
Screenshot of facebook’s judgement of the innocent Wella Wella onions as being products with ‘Overtly Sexualized Positioning’ (Image courtesy of The Seed Company by EW Gaze via Facebook)

According to the report, the seed and garden supply company from Canada wanted to promote Walla Walla onion seeds with an image of the onions piled in a wicker basket and some sliced beside.

Affected by the pandemic, the company was on its way to moving the in-store inventory online.

Walla Walla onions are known for their bigger size and sweetness and crunchy texture. Store manager Jackson McLean later figured out what could be the reason for the rejection.

He told the BBC, later he figured out something was wrong with the round shape of the onions, which could be suggestive to breasts and buttocks.

Thinking his customers will find the incident funny, McLean posted the screenshot of the page where Facebook says “listings may not position products or services in a sexually suggestive manner”.

“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 post read.

The decision was appealed to Facebook and the company apologized and confirmed the ad request was restored.

Artificial intelligence

“We use automated technology to keep nudity off our apps, but sometimes it doesn’t know a Walla Walla onion from a, well, you know,” Facebook Canada’s head of communications, Meg Sinclair said.

Social media platforms often employ artificial intelligence and automated algorithms to discerns if contents by users are in sync with the company’s policy.

In this way, these companies block pornographic or adult contents from loitering the platform openly which has tons of young users or can be potentially offensive.

AI systems are usually fed with tons of data that are sexually explicit and suggestive, which in turn warns users when their contents match those with the pre-fed data.

But some images (content) fall in-between — putting the computer in perplexion whether or not this is what it should allow to go up or block from purview.

McLean said, some of his quirky customers had replied with images of sexually suggestive carrots and pumpkins in the reply.

The store was on its way to move the inventory online for ease of access to customers amid the pandemic and the newfound notoriety had pushed their business a bit.

The silver lining of the funny incident was the store had to restock their old onions, and reportedly sold more Walla Walla in three days than they did in the last five years, the store manager confirmed.

Onions are now listed under ‘sexy onions’ on the store’s website.

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