Facebook fails to remove flagged "sexualised images of children"

The tech giant has reported the BBC to the police following its investigation into secret paedophile groups

Facebook fails to remove flagged "sexualised images of children"

Mark Zuckerberg. Image: Ben Margot / AP

A BBC probe into Facebook's treatment of sexualised images of children has resulted in the public media company being reported to the police. The broadcaster has raised serious questions about the firm's treatment of complaints regarding sexually explicit images of children and secret groups where this material is shared.

The investigation into hidden groups sharing images of minors, which "included images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material" - flagged 100 inappropriate images with the social network.

Less than 20% of these images were removed from the site.

One picture was, "an image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share 'child pornography'" - it was among the reported images which were deemed to have not breached Facebook "community standards."

After Facebook's director of policy agreed to be interviewed by the BBC - it sent the reported images to Facebook.

The tech company subsequently reported the British broadcaster to the police.

"We have carefully reviewed the content referred to us and have now removed all items that were illegal or against our standards ... This content is no longer on our platform. We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures," Facebook said in a statement.

"It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation ... When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry's standard practice and reported them to CEOP (the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre - a branch of the police). We also reported the child exploitation images that had been shared on our own platform. This matter is now in the hands of the authorities."

The interview was cancelled. BBC's director of editorial policy, David Jordan responded, "The fact that Facebook sent images that had been sent to them, that appear on their site, for their response about how Facebook deals with inappropriate images … the fact that they sent those on to the police seemed to me to be extraordinary."

"One can only assume that the Facebook executives were unwilling or certainly reluctant to engage in an interview or a debate about why these images are available on the Facebook site," he concluded.

A previous BBC investigation into Facebook paedophile groups led to one individual receiving a four-year jail sentence - based on information which the BBC supplied to British authorities.

Facebook states, "Convicted sex offenders are not allowed to use Facebook. If you've encountered an account that may belong to a convicted sex offender, please report it to us." The BBC reports that it found convicted paedophiles who were active on the site and that Facebook failed to remove their profiles after they were reported.


Readers affected by the issues raised in this post are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123