In a move that’s baffling at best and rather appalling at worst, Facebook has been busted asking users if they think it’s alright for adults to solicit “sexual pictures” from minors on its platform. While this may sound ridiculous on the surface — because it is — nevertheless, it happened.
On Sunday, the social media behemoth sent surveys out to a group of its users with questions on the issue of child grooming, the process of adults befriending children for the purposes of sexual abuse or other nefarious ends like trafficking and prostitution.
“There are a wide range of topics and behaviours that appear on Facebook,” began one of the questions. “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.”
Respondents’ answer options ranged from “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it” to “this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it. ”Survey takers were also allowed to select that they have “no preference” on the subject.
In a follow-up question, the tech company asked users who the arbiter of such content and behavior should be. Answer options ranged from “Facebook decides the rules on its own” to “Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook.” Others involved getting input from outside experts.
Strangely, neither of the two questions gave survey takers the choice to suggest that law enforcement should be alerted to the situation.
It didn’t take long for the media to catch on. The digital editor for the Guardian, Jonathan Haynes, flagged the issue on Twitter. He got a response from Facebook’s VP of Product, Guy Rosen, who called the inclusion of such questions a “mistake” that shouldn’t have happened:
“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.”