Facebook fails to remove sexualised images of children and reports BBC journalists who flagged them up

The BBC says it flagged up 100 examples of sexualised images of children and only 18 were removed

Facebook has come under fire for its handling of reports that sexualised images of children were being distributed on its platform after the company reported BBC journalists who flagged up the issue to the police.

The BBC reported dozens of indecent photos, including images from groups where men were discussing swapping child abuse material, to Facebook and requested an interview with the social media giant.

The social media platform encourages users to report inappropriate content via its "report button", which the BBC did with 100 images that appeared to break the guidelines set out on the site. Of the 100 images submitted to Facebook only 18 were removed.

Facebook's director of policy, Simon Milner, agreed to be interviewed last week, on condition the BBC provided examples of the material that it had reported, but had not been removed by moderators.

However according to the BBC, Facebook cancelled plans for the interview after it was provided with the material and instead reported the broadcaster's journalists to the UK's National Crime Agency.

It subsequently issued a statement: "When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry's standard practice and reported them to CEOP [Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre].

"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."

Chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins, described the decision to report the journalists to police as “extraordinary” and said he had "grave doubts" about the effectiveness of Facebook’s content moderation strategy.

The removal of obscene material has been revealed to be a major failing on Facebook’s part with around 80% of indecent images flagged up by the BBC remaining on the platform.

The material in question included pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children, images of under-16s in highly sexualised poses, groups with names such as "hot xxxx schoolgirls" containing stolen images of real children and a still from a video showing child abuse.

Facebook’s guidelines also forbid convicted sex offenders from having accounts. However when the BBC found and reported five convicted paedophiles with profiles, none were taken down.

In response to Facebook’s failure to act 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."

One of the other major issues which Facebook has had to contend with recently is the prominence of fake news. To tackle the issue it rolled out a ‘disputed’ tag which flags up such content with an exclamation mark alongside a message indicating that its contents have been disputed by fact checking websites.

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Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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