By Gavin Mackintosh-
Facebook is facing criticism for the way it handled reports about sexualised images of children on its platform.
The BBC reported dozens of photos to facebook, but claim over 80% remained on the site.
The chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins, said he had “grave doubts” about the effectiveness of facebook’s content moderation systems, after its failure to promptly remove sexualised images from its platform when notified by the BBC. Those comments are well founded if sexualised images of children remained on facebook despite a report from the BBC.
The pictures included images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. Instead of addressing the issues effectively when approached by the BBC, Facebook reported the BBC journalists involved to the police and cancelled plans for an interview. That report appears to have been disingenuous, especially considering the fact Facebook would have known the report was coming from the BBC.
It subsequently issued a statement: “It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.” Mr Collins said it was extraordinary that the BBC had been reported to the authorities when it was trying to “help clean up the network”.
Facebook claims on its welcome page that it does remove obscene material.
“Nudity or other sexually suggestive content” according to facebook, are not allowed on the platform. Yet, the BBC have said that ”secret groups were being used by Paedophiles to swap images. A man was also sent to prison for four years after being reported to the police by the BBC. In order to test Facebook’s claim, the BBC used the report button to alert the company to 100 images which appeared to break its guidelines. They included:
groups with names such as “hot xxxx schoolgirls” containing stolen images of real children
After the BBC found five convicted paedophiles with profiles and reported them to Facebook via its own system, the broadcasting network was surprised to see that none of them was taken down. That’s shockingly disturbing because one has to ask why?The failure and slowness to take the pictures down raise legitimate questions as to whether there might have been some people in the driving seat with paedophilia tendencies who actually did not mind the pictures remaining on the site. This is not being asserted as a fact but as the potential possibility. In this day and age, it is impossible to say where paedophiles are. They could be among professionals in any field. Not long ago, Mp’s were the subject of an investigation relating to a Paedophile ring, and although no charges were brought, the allegation in itself was an eye opener into just how wide the problem of Paedophilia can be. Criminal charges always require clear proof, without which they are a waste of time.
Mr Collins said he was disturbed by the findings and disappointed in the operational workings of facebook. He added:
“I think it raises the question of how can users make effective complaints to Facebook about content that is disturbing, shouldn’t be on the site, and have confidence that that will be acted upon.”
The BBC also showed what it had found to the Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.
Former Facebook executive Elizabeth Linder warns against site becoming a “police-like state”
“I have been very disturbed by what I have seen, very disappointed that one year on we are still seeing images that are very sexualised, totally in my view unacceptable,” she said.
“The moderation clearly isn’t being effective, I would question whether humans are moderating this, are looking at this, and also I think it is failing to take account of the context of these images.”
Facebook users discussed the age of the children and made lewd comments
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) also voiced concern.
“Facebook’s failure to remove illegal content from its website is appalling and violates the agreements they have in place to protect children,” said a spokeswoman.
“It also raises the question of what content they consider to be inappropriate and dangerous to children.”
The BBC first asked Facebook for an interview about its moderation system in late-2015 and repeated the request following this follow-up investigation.
The social network’s director of policy Simon Milner agreed to be interviewed last week, on condition the BBC provided examples of the material that it had reported but had not been removed by moderators.
The BBC did so but was reported to the UK’s National Crime Agency as a consequence.
Mr Collins said this was “extraordinary – because you’re trying to help them clean up their network, from the material that shouldn’t be there”.
Facebook later said in a statement:
“We have carefully reviewed the content referred to us and have now removed all items that were illegal or against our standards,” it said.
“This content is no longer on our platform. We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures.
“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.
“When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry’s standard practice and reported them to Ceop [Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre].
“We also reported the child exploitation images that had been shared on our own platform. This matter is now in the hands of the authorities.”
The explanation from facebook is unsatisfactory because they failed to justify why the pictures were not removed after being alerted by the BBC. Stating the law and the official position of facebook is not the same as acting promptly on it, which they failed to do.
The BBC’s director of editorial policy, David Jordan, said the move was surprising.
“The fact that Facebook sent images that had been sent to them, that appear on their site, for their response about how Facebook deals with inappropriate images…the fact that they sent those on to the police seemed to me to be extraordinary,” he said.