Facebook sent a flaky survey to some users. It asked whether the social network should allow child grooming for adult men.
The company asked selected survey recipients how they think Facebook must set the rules on the following:
- Whether adults can ask minors for sexually explicit photos
- Whether they would allow these content on the platform if they had Facebook’s steering wheel
The Q & A
Facebook’s question 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.
Four multiple-choice answers follow:
- This content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it.
- This content should be allowed on Facebook, but I don’t want to see it.
- This content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it.
- I have no preference on this topic.
Another Facebook question 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?”
- Facebook decides the rules on its own.
- External experts decide the rules and tell Facebook.
- Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook.
These off-the-wall messages are illegal in the US, the UK, and for most parts of the world. And the options never mentioned what role the law enforcement agencies have on these rules.
Government officials took notice. Yvette Cooper, UK Labor MP and chairwoman of the home affairs select committee, 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.
In the UK, where Facebook ran their survey, the law states that soliciting sexual images from underage girls is illegal.
A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that Facebook bans child grooming on its platform indefinitely.
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.
Responding to Haynes on Twitter, Facebook VP of product Guy Rosen said someone added the question by “mistake”.
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.
We have yet to hear from Facebook if they use the survey results for ad targeting. What Facebook staffers were thinking when they added this question is a mystery.