Facebook has admitted it was a “mistake” to ask users whether paedophiles requesting sexual pictures from children should be allowed on its website.
On Sunday, the social network ran a survey for some users asking how they thought the company should handle grooming behaviour. “There are a wide range of topics and behaviours that appear on Facebook,” one question began. “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 options available to respondents ranged from “this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it” to “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it”.
A second question asked who should decide the rules around whether or not the adult man should be allowed to ask for such pictures on Facebook. Options available included “Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook” and “Facebook decides the rules on its own”.
In neither survey question did Facebook allow users to indicate that law enforcement or child protection should be involved in the situation: the strictest option allowed involved turning to the social network as arbiter.
Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, condemned the survey. “This is a stupid and irresponsible survey,” she said. “Adult men asking 14-year-olds to send sexual images is not only against the law, it is completely wrong and an appalling abuse and exploitation of children. I cannot imagine that Facebook executives ever want it on their platform but they also should not send out surveys that suggest they might tolerate it or suggest to Facebook users that this might ever be acceptable.”