This article was published on March 7, 2017

BBC reports child abuse images to Facebook, Facebook reports BBC to police

BBC reports child abuse images to Facebook, Facebook reports BBC to police

In a bizarre turn of events, Facebook has reported a handful of BBC journalists to local police after the news outlet flagged a bevy of child abuse material to the social media platform, including images obtained in groups where members discussed exchanging explicit content featuring minors.

When presented with examples of the images in question, Facebook purportedly called the police on the reporters involved in the investigation, adding a statement it “is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation,” BBC reports.

Prior to providing the abusive images, Facebook Director of Policy Simon Milner had agreed to an interview on the condition BBC could prove reported examples of such material still exist on the platform.

Though the social media company specifically warns against spreading “nudity or other sexually suggestive content” on its platform, alerting the police in this particular situation appears rather ludicrous given that BBC was trying to help clean up the site.

BBC’s latest Facebook-related child abuse report follows another investigation from last year, exposing a large online network of pedophiles and leading to the arrest at least one man. In the aftermath, the social media heavyweight commented that BBC’s piece helped them improve the platform’s abuse report system.

To test these claims, BBC used Facebook’s dedicated ‘report button’ to tip off the website about the existence of 100 images which violated the company’s guidelines and terms of use. The materials reported included:

  • Pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children
  • Images of under-16s in highly sexualized poses, with obscene comments posted beside them
  • Groups with names such as “hot xxxx schoolgirls” containing stolen images of real children
  • An image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share “child pornography”

Following BBC’s warnings, Facebook removed only 18 from all reported images. According to subsequent automated replies, the remainder of the material was in line with the platform’s “community standards.”

In addition to the images, BBC identified and reported five convicted pedophiles with active Facebook profiles – even though the platform strictly forbids sex offenders from having accounts. The social media company took down none of the reported profiles.

In a statement provided by Facebook later, the company said all reported images have since been wiped from the platform.

Facebook has struggled with moderating its platform on a number of occasions in the past.

Earlier this year, four delinquents in Chicago brutally abused and terrorized a young man suffering from mental health issues in a Facebook livestream. More recently, the company took two weeks to remove the footage of a 12-year-old girl that broadcast her suicide on the platform.