- Facebook asked its users whether they would like child grooming to be permitted on the site.
- In a surreal survey, it asked how it should approach the issue – but didn’t give contacting the police as an option.
- British politicians have criticised the social network’s questioning as “stupid and irresponsible.”
Facebook sent some of its users a bizarre survey asking whether they would like child grooming to be allowed on the social network.
Selected users were asked how they think Facebook should set the rules on whether adults can ask minors for sexually explicit photos (a crime), and whether, if they controlled Facebook, they would let such messages be allowed (also a crime).
In one question, Facebook asked: “In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebooks’ 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 multiple choice answers include “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it” and “this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it.” Such messages would clearly be illegal throughout the US, the UK, and elsewhere in the world, and there is no option to say they should be reported to the police.
In another question, it asked: “When thinking about the rules for deciding whether a private message in which an adult man asks a 14 year old girl for sexual pictures should or should not be allowed on Facebook, ideally who do you think should be deciding the rules?”
Possible answers include “Facebook decides the rules on its own,” “External experts decide the rules and tell Facebook,” and “Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook.”
Again, there is no mention of what role the law might play in deciding these rules.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that child grooming is banned on Facebook and it has no plans to change that.
“We sometimes ask for feedback from people about our community standards and the types of content they would find most concerning on Facebook,” they said. “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.”
The social network has been criticised over the survey. Labour MP and chairwoman of the home affairs select committee Yvette Cooper told The Times: “This is a stupid and irresponsible survey. 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.”