Facebook has come under severe criticism after it “failed” to remove sexual pictures of underage children, and then promptly reported the journalists who alerted them to the images to the police.
A year ago the BBC launched an investigation into the way that Facebook handles sexualised images of children, finding that it was failing to remove these images in a comprehensive and speedy manner.
The BBC then revisited the investigation to see if Facebook had improved its techniques for dealing with these images.
To test the company it used the “report button” to alert Facebook to 100 images which appeared to break the company’s guidelines.
It found that of those 100 images, Facebook subsequently removed just 18 of them. In a bizarre twist Facebook then reported the BBC to the police.
In a statement to the HuffPost 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.”
The chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins said: “I think it raises the question of how can users make effective complaints to Facebook about content that is disturbing, shouldn’t be on the site, and have confidence that that will be acted upon.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said to the Huffington Post UK: “Facebook’s failure to remove illegal content from its website is appalling and violates the agreements they have in place to protect children.”
“Increasing numbers of children are contacting Childline with concerns about disturbing content they are seeing online, so it’s vital systems are put in place so social media platforms cannot play by their own rules when it comes to the safety of children.”
“Anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse content online can report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Adults with concerns can contact the NSPCC helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000.”
We have contacted Facebook for a statement on this issue and will indeed update this piece if and when one comes through.