Facebook Failed to Remove Child Abuse Photos, Reported Journalists Who Investigated to the Cops

Facebook has been criticized for failing to remove sexualized images of children from its social network, with the BBC claiming that the company reported its journalists to the police as a result of their investigation.

The BBC found that various secret Facebook pages had been set up by pedophiles, with them being used to post what appeared to be child abuse material and other images of children. While Facebook’s terms of service is (as you’d image) strictly against its users posting such images, Facebook typically relies on its users to report posts before they’re taken down. As these images were shared in closed groups, this means that they remained online.

Journalists at the BBC reported 100 images that had been posted on the social network, though claim that only 18 were taken down. According to the BBC, these images included “images of under-16s in highly sexualized poses,” “groups …  containing stolen images of real children” and “an image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse.” The images were reportedly accompanied by obscene comments and one request for readers to share child pornography.

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The BBC report adds that it set up an interview with Facebook’s director of policy Simon Milner, who agreed to the discussion on the understanding that journalists would provide evidence of the content that they had reported. However, after they did so the social network reported them to the UK’s National Crime Agency, alongside a statement reading: “It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.”

Damian Collins, chair of the culture, media and sport committee, called Facebook’s response “extraordinary.” “I find it very disturbing. I find that content unacceptable,” he said. “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.” He added that Facebook’s decision to report the journalists to the police was “extraordinary – because you’re trying to help them clean up their network, from material that shouldn’t be there.”

This isn’t the first time that Facebook’s moderation system has come under fire. Last year a BBC report uncovered images of child abuse shared on the platform, with the company claiming that it was committed to removing “content that shouldn’t be there.” However, this new report indicates that Facebook hasn’t managed to be successful in this regard, and seemingly indicates that the company was more concerned with preserving its public image by throwing journalists under the bus, than actively removing the images of child abuse.

Featured Image: David Ramos / Getty Images