Facebook says it mistakenly asked users for views on grooming

Facebook says it mistakenly asked users for views on grooming
From TechCrunch - March 5, 2018

In todays episode of wtf was the tech industry thinking, Facebook has been caught asking users if they think its okay for an adult man to ask a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures in a private chat.

The Guardianreported that Facebook ran the survey on Sunday asking a portion of its users how they thought it should handle grooming behavior.

One question received by a Facebook user who was sent the survey read: In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebooks policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14 year old girl for sexual pictures.

Facebook offered four multiple choice responses that users could select, ranging from being able to approve of such content being allowed on Facebook to saying it should not be allowed or stating they have no preference.

We reached out to Facebook to ask about its intentions with the survey and also to ask how many users received it; in which countries; and what their gender breakdown was.

A Facebook spokesperson emailed us the following statement in response:

We sometimes ask for feedback from people about our community standards and the types of content they would find most concerning on Facebook. We understand this survey refers to offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook and that we have no intention of allowing so have stopped the survey. We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days; 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.

The company declined to answer any specific questions, though we understand the survey was sent to thousands not millions of Facebooks 2.1BN global users.

Its also unclear whether the company links any of the information it gathers from product surveys like these to individual Facebook users profiles for ad targeting purposes. Weve asked Facebook and will update this post if it provides clarification of how else it might use this kind of user generated data.

Facebooks handling of child protection issues has sporadicallyattracted criticismincluding a year ago, after a BBC investigation found it was failing to remove reported child exploitation imagery. Though its hardly the only social media firmtaking flak on that front.

In May last year a UK childrens charity also called for Facebook to be independently regulated, urging a regime of penalties to enforce compliance.

Since then there have also been wider calls for social media firms to clean up their act over a range of toxic content.

So quite what Facebooks staffers were thinking when they framed this particular question is hard to fathom.

The law in the UK is unequivocal that its illegal for adults to solicit sexual images from 14-year-old childrenyet the survey was apparently running in the UK.

According to the Guardian, another question askedwho should decide the rules around whether or not the adult man should be allowed to ask for such pictureswith responses ranging from Facebook deciding the rules on its own; to getting expert advice but still deciding itself; to experts telling Facebook what to do; and finally to users deciding the rules by voting and telling Facebook.


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