Facebook's Moderation Comes Under Fire Again Following BBC Investigation

The Telegraph
It's long been public knowledge that Facebook has been used by pedophiles to create sharing groups for explicit images of children. Facebook were understandably quick to pledge that all such content would be purged from the platform as quickly as humanly possible, and since last year they have said in statements that things are improving.

The BBC, it seems, would beg to differ. Following a recent investigation, they have reported finding dozens of similar images still active on the site, and flagged all of them. Facebook only removed 20% of these, some of which seemed to depict legitimate photographic evidence of child abuse.

It gets worse though. When the BBC journalists in question forwarded these images to Facebook as evidence, Facebook cancelled all forthcoming interviews and reported the journalists to the police. To reiterate, BBC journalists found illegal images of child abuse on Facebook, notified Facebook of these images, and were subsequently reported to the police by Facebook for distributing illegal images of child abuse. Feeling dizzy?

Here's the fatal flaw with Facebook's policy on explicit material: someone who disapproves has to see it in order to actually report it. If explicit images of children are being shared only within private groups, that's not going to happen. Further, when the images are reported, they aren't assessed by people, but by an automated system, a system with a fairly terrible rep for actually flagging the right stuff.

Facebook also have rules prohibiting convicted sex offenders from having Facebook accounts, yet 5 convicted pedophiles were found with accounts by the BBC. Even in the most secure system, there are bound to be cracks, and Facebook is so vast that the chances of unauthorised content (and people) breaching the system are much higher, but even with that taken into account, it's pretty disconcerting.

The police reporting incident can, to some extent, be chocked up to miscommunication. The Facebook staffers were only following protocol, but the company's refusal to participate in any interviews on the subject is a far harder negative reflection to escape. Facebook will need to come out with some pretty serious outlines for how to deal with this or the bad publicity could do them a great deal of harm.

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