Facebook fails to remove sexualised images of children following BBC investigation

Facebook has been criticised for how it handled an investigation into sexualised images of children hosted on its platform, failing to respond to evidence of groups dedicated to sharing images and even reporting the BBC journalists involved to the police.

Facebooks reponse to the investigation was chastised by the chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins, who said he had grave doubts over the effectiveness of the social networks moderation systems.

A BBC investigation last year found that secret groups were being used by paedophiles to post and swap obscene images of children, with Facebooks settings meaning that the groups were invisible to most users.

The groups had names like “we love schoolgirlz” and “cute teen schoolies”, and contained highly suggestive and sexually explicit images, many purporting to be of children. The results were shared with the police, the Internet Watch Foundation and the National Crime Agency.

Despite the evidence provided to them, Facebook took down less than 20 per cent of the images which the BBC alerted them to, and cancelled plans for an interview following the investigation.

According to the BBC, journalists were even reported to the police for sharing evidence of the images with Facebook upon request, despite their efforts leading to one man being being sent to prison for four years. Facebooks automated replies suggested that the majority of the images did not breach “community standards”.

The BBC also alerted Facebook to five convicted paedophiles with profiles using its own reporting systems, none of whom were removed from the platform, despite Facebooks rules forbidding convicted sex offenders from having accounts.

“Facebooks failure to remove illegal content from its website is appalling and violates the agreements they have in place to protect children,” said a statement by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. “It also raises the question of what content they consider to be inappropriate and dangerous to children.”

“We have carefully reviewed the content referred to us and have now removed all items that were illegal or againsts our standards,” said Facebook in a statement. “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.

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation. When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industrys standard practice and reported them to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).

“We also reported the child exploitation images that had been shared on our platform. This matter is now in the hands of the authorities.”