Facebook regrets its question about men and child sex images

The company asked some users in a survey if people who ask for sexual images from children should be allowed to use the site. Users weren't impressed.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Facebook says a survey question about whether people who ask for sexual pictures from children should be able to use the site was a "mistake."


Facebook made a "mistake" when it asked in a survey whether people who request sexual pictures from children should be able to use the site, a company executive said.

The survey asked some users including The Guardian digital editor Jonathan Haynes on Sunday how Facebook should handle certain behaviors, The Guardian reported

Haynes tweeted images of the survey, which he said popped up in his Facebook account. One question asked: "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 response options included "this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it" and "this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it." There was no response stating that Facebook should contact law enforcement or child protection services. 

Guy Rosen, vice president of product at Facebook, responded to Haynes in a tweet.

"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."

The social networking giant has mechanisms in place to report harmful content, but they often haven't been enough. Facebook has been slammed for failing to remove sexual child images from its site, even after they've been reported. It has also grappled with monitoring other content such as violence streamed through its Facebook Live feature.

In response to a request for comment on the survey, a Facebook representative expanded upon what Rosen said: "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."

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First published March 5 at 9:17 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:03 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Facebook.