Business

Facebook regrets asking whether it's OK to let adult men ask underage girls for smut pix

'It was a mistake,' says exec in understatement of the decade

By Thomas Claburn in San Francisco

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Facebook has apologized for sending out a survey to find out how the social network should respond when adult men ask teenaged girls for sexually explicit images.

The survey, which went out to an undisclosed number of users of the social network over the weekend, posed this question:

In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook's policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14 year old girl for sexual pictures.

  • 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.

Missing is any acknowledgement that soliciting sexual imagery from minors is a crime in many countries, including the US and the UK, to say nothing of facilitating the distribution of such content on your website.

The survey continued with a question about whether Facebook, external experts, or Facebook users should decide on these rules, again without mentioning that various national legal systems already spell out rules that disallow such behavior.

The survey was noted by Jonathan Haynes, digital editor of The Guardian, who posted screenshots of the social media biz's questions via Twitter and inquired to Facebook about its data gathering.

Responding to Haynes, Facebook VP of product Guy Rosen, acknowledged that this particular solicitation was handled poorly.

"We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies," said Rosen via Twitter. "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."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for further explanation.

The ham-handed solicitation comes at the close of the company's Global Safety Summit and follows months of criticism over the social network's obliviousness toward politically divisive ads designed to advance Russia's political agenda. ®

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