The BBC was reported to the police by Facebook after it provided examples of inappropriate images of children posted on the site - at the social media company’s own request.
Facebook’s response has been branded “astonishing” after the BBC reported dozens of images found on the site, including an image which appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, and pages explicitly for men who are sexually interested in children.
Just 18 of the 100 images were removed since, according to automated replies from Facebook, the rest did not breach “community standards”.
As a condition for an interview with Facebook’s director of policy Simon Milner about the material, the BBC was asked to send examples of the images that had not been removed.
But when the broadcaster complied, it was reported to the UK’s National Crime Agency.
The interview was also cancelled.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said the response was “extraordinary”.
He said: “The complaint was made about the images, nothing was done. The BBC was asked to send the images in and then they referred it to the police, when it was quite clearly information that was being brought to Facebook’s attention that they wanted Facebook to act on.
“I think that’s an astonishing response.”
Many on social media also expressed their incredulity at Facebook’s response.
Facebook has since released a statement confirming that it has now removed all the images that were reported to them.
It went on to say: “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 Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre.”
In a statement to The Huffington Post UK, Facebook said: “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 has been recognized as one of the best platforms on the internet for child safety.
“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. 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.”