Wednesday 8 March 2017

Facebook May Have To Face MPs Over Failure To Remove Problematic Images


Facebook will be questioned by a powerful group of MPs over its failure to remove sexualised images of children following a BBC investigation that found posts reported under its own guidelines were not being taken down.

The BBC investigation revealed that of the 100 images and posts it flagged using Facebook’s tools, just 18 were deemed by moderators to breach Facebook’s guidelines, which explicitly bar sexualised images of children.

The posts reported included items found in groups specifically aimed at men with an interest in child sexual abuse images and stolen images of real children with obscene comments beneath them. When the BBC provided examples of the images to Facebook, the social network reported them to the police.

The culture, media and sport select committee is planning to question Facebook executives after Easter as part of its fake news inquiry and now will expand the investigation to include the social network’s moderation policy.

The committee’s chair, Damian Collins MP, had earlier on Tuesday described the company’s response to the investigation as “extraordinary”.

After asking the BBC for examples of posts that had not been removed, Facebook contacted a senior executive at the corporation to say it would not do an interview and would be reporting both the content and the investigating team to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), which is part of the National Crime Agency.

Angus Crawford, who led the BBC investigation, said the team had been surprised the images had been passed to Ceop, given that Facebook’s moderators had failed to remove them.

“We didn’t believe the content was illegal. We were further convinced the content wasn’t illegal when we reported the content to Facebook when their own moderators said it did not breach community guidelines,” Crawford said in a Facebook Live stream on Tuesday.

“Which way do they want it? That it’s illegal and their moderation isn’t working or actually it’s perfectly legal content, but they didn’t want to do an interview?”

In a statement released earlier on Tuesday after the BBC had published its story, Facebook UK’s policy director, Simon Milner, said the social network had followed “our industry’s standard practice” in reporting the images.

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation. 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.”

“We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures.”

Facebook has refused to say which images provided by the BBC prompted its referral to Ceop. However, it is thought there was one deemed most likely to be illegal by its lawyers. Among the images provided, one appeared to be a freeze frame from a video that was accompanied by a link to a video, which the journalists did not view as they suspected it contained child exploitation.

Facebook has since removed each item it was able to identify as having been flagged by the BBC reporters, which it says amounts to more than 100 posts.

Much of the social media firm’s moderation is outsourced to contractors who deal with huge numbers of posts each day, though more serious issues are dealt with by in-house teams. Facebook was not able to say whether it directly employed the moderators who had decided not to remove the posts reported by the BBC journalists.



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