Facebook reports the BBC to the police over child abuse images investigation
Facebook was compelled to report the BBC to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) after the broadcaster flagged a crowd of child abuse material to the social media platform. The content included “sexualised images of children” obtained in groups where members had conversations about exchanging explicit content featuring minors.
The BBC said it used Facebook’s “report button” to flag up 100 photos on the website but 82 were not removed, with an automated response saying they did not breach “community standards”. The BBC also said Facebook failed to remove the profiles of five convicted paedophiles.
Facebook asked the whistleblowing journalist, Angus Crawford to send over the photographs he thought were problematic. However, the BBC was surprised when Facebook reported both the images and its organisation to the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
“When the BBC approached Facebook with its findings, Facebook agreed to an interview on the condition the BBC provided examples of the remaining material which had been deemed acceptable by Facebook’s own moderation procedure,” a BBC spokesperson said. “The BBC provided that evidence to Facebook.”
Later, Facebook said it “carefully reviewed the content” and followed “industry’s standard practice” by reporting it to the authorities. “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,” Simon Milner, the social network’s director of policy clarified.
“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 recognised as one of the best platforms on the internet for child safety,” he said.
Damian Collins, chairman of the UK’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, criticised the fact that the BBC had been reported for authorities while working to “help clean up the network.
“I find it very disturbing, I find that content unacceptable. 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,” he said.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said Facebook’s behaviour was “deeply disappointing and deeply disturbing.”
“I find it hard to believe that individuals at Facebook had seen these images and made a decision that they were okay and hadn’t breached their community rules,’ she said.
“They were very explicit, they were very sexualised photos of children and some of them clearly had been taken without the children knowing.”
In a statement, Milner later said Facebook has “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 was a difficult task for the BBC to emphasise that all the images it sent to Facebook were pictures it had found on its own platform that were not taken down despite reports to site moderators, and that Facebook had specifically asked for the material to be sent across.