On Monday, USA Today reported that Facebook, the social media site once dubbed the “world’s most dangerous censor,” came under fire from a number of people after asking users if pedophiles should be allowed to solicit sexually explicit photos from underage girls on the platform.
The survey is the latest in a series of missteps by the Silicon Valley company, which has been criticized for allowing content that exploits children.
From violence on its Live streaming service to hate speech to divisive messages sent by Russian operatives trying to to meddle in the U.S. presidential election, toxic content flowing through its platform has heightened scrutiny of Facebook.
Facebook scrapped the survey that posed questions about teens being groomed by older men after it was spotted by media outlets in the United Kingdom. It now says the survey could have been better “designed.”
Better designed? Really?
“In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook’s policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures,” the social media giant asked users in a survey that went out on Sunday.
“Another question asked who should decide whether an adult man can ask for sexual pictures on Facebook, with options ranging from ‘Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook’ to ‘Facebook decides the rules on its own,’” USA Today added.
Guy Rosen, a vice president of product at the company, responded: “We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies. But this kind of activity is and will always be completely unacceptable on FB. We regularly work with authorities if identified. It shouldn’t have been part of this survey. That was a mistake.”
We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies. But this kind of activity is and will always be completely unacceptable on FB. We regularly work with authorities if identified. It shouldn't have been part of this survey. That was a mistake.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) March 4, 2018
“‘That was a mistake’ really doesn’t quite do it here,” one person told Rosen.
"That was a mistake" really doesn't quite do it here.
— John Paczkowski (@JohnPaczkowski) March 5, 2018
Note: it's not just unacceptable on Facebook. It's everywhere.
— Mark Spoonauer (@mspoonauer) March 5, 2018
I love how Facebook cowers behind the phrase "sorry it was a mistake, we will do better" every. single. time.
— jacky (@jjackyliang) March 5, 2018
That does seem to be a pattern with the company.
HOW do you define this as "a mistake?" A mistake to post it? A mistake to WRITE IT and then post it? A mistake to EVEN THINK IT SOMETHING WORTH ASKING???? Please CLARIFY "mistake…"
— Moz (@ImM0Zbo) March 5, 2018
Please humor us and explain the process of how a survey is created, approved, and sent to the target audience – so we know what to think of Facebook and whether any adults were in charge.
— Shamir Dasgupta (@shamird) March 5, 2018
Yeah, it seems the problem with Facebook is that it's run by a bunch of loony liberal Atheists with a broken moral compass.
— David (@TotalRecall9) March 6, 2018
Indeed. Yet one can get banned for posting a Bible verse.
Others were disgusted by the survey, USA Today reported:
“It is hard to believe that Facebook could be so utterly tone-deaf when it comes to this issue,” said Diana Graber, founder of Cyber Civics and CyberWise which teach digital literacy to kids and parents. “The fact that Facebook would even pose this question theoretically is disgusting.”
In a statement, Facebook said the survey referred to “offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook and that we have no intention of allowing.”
Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media, says the Facebook survey sent a “terrible message” and, worse yet, normalizes predatory behavior.
Facebook shouldn’t be asking users whether such behavior is acceptable, it should be educating families on the risks posed by online predators, she said.
It’s not the first time the company has come fire for this. A 2016 BBC report revealed a number of private groups on the site by and for men with a sexual interest in children that were used to share images. One group, the report said, was run by a convicted pedophile:
The BBC went as far as setting up a fake profile of its own in order to gain access to the groups as part of the investigation:
In one secret group called “cute teen schoolies”, we found a picture of a girl in a vest, aged 10 or 11, accompanied by the words “yum yum”. Facebook responded that it did not breach “community standards” and the image stayed up.
Out of 20 images reported, just half of them were removed, some by Facebook, and some by the uploaders. Other images which featured children in “highly sexualized poses” were deemed not to breach Facebook’s community standards, and so remained in place — this in spite of the fact that the BBC found some material so disturbing that it contacted the police.
In 2017, the BBC flagged dozens of images and pages containing child pornography, USA Today said. “Of the 100 reported images,18 were removed by Facebook, according to the BBC. At the time, the BBC said Facebook asked to be sent examples of the images and then reported the broadcaster to the child exploitation unit of Britain’s National Crime Agency,” the report said.
“We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days,” Facebook told USA Today. “We have no intention of changing this, and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice.”
One person suggested:
Maybe you'd better run a
survey about how people feel about you censoring conservative viewpoints and making yourself an arm of the liberal One World culture. Ask how people feel about your attempts to indoctrinate users and interfere with elections.
— ❌MamaGrandmama❌ (@BobbasGirl) March 6, 2018
Now that’s a survey we’d like to see!
- Facebook reports BBC journos to police for reporting child abuse images
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