These tests are called CAPTCHA, an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, and they’ve reached this sort of inscrutability plateau before. In the early 2000s, simple images of text were enough to stump most spambots. But a decade later, after Google had bought the program from Carnegie Mellon researchers and was using it to digitize Google Books, texts had to be increasingly warped and obscured to stay ahead of improving optical character recognition programs — programs which, in a roundabout way, all those humans solving CAPTCHAs were helping to improve.
Facebook’s outage came a day before whistleblower Frances Haugen was set to testify before Congress about her experiences at the company. Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who worked on its Civic Integrity group, provided a trove of internal Facebook documents to reporters at the Wall Street Journal. She told 60 Minutes on Sunday that Facebook “pays for its profits with our safety.”