This article was published on March 5, 2018

Facebook asks its users: Is pedophilia okay?

Facebook asks its users: Is pedophilia okay?
Rachel Kaser
Story by

Rachel Kaser

Internet Culture Writer

Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback riding. Check her Twitter for curmudgeonly criticisms.

Facebook got itself in blazing hot water today when a survey surfaced that appeared to ask users if they condone illicit correspondence between an adult male and a minor child. In response, the company said it was a “mistake” but danced around explaining why they asked the question in the first place.

The Guardian‘s Jonathan Haynes initially posted screenshots of the survey to Twitter, which showed both the questions and answers.

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.

If you think the question is bad, you should see the answers:

A follow-up question asks who users think should set the rules regarding such interaction, with two of the answers being “Facebook.” Even though, you know, that’s not up to Facebook. Call me a traditionalist, but I’m pretty sure lawmakers set the rules regarding inappropriate interactions between adults and children a long time ago.

Ordinarily, I might try to play devil’s advocate and posit a good reason for Facebook to even ask this question. But I racked my brain trying to come up with a theoretical reason and couldn’t come up with one, save maybe quarantining anyone who gave the first answer to the first question. I’d ask what the survey writers are smoking, but that seems like an insult to law-abiding smokers everywhere.

Facebook’s VP of Product, Guy Rosen, responded directly to Haynes’ tweet, saying, “That was a mistake.” (Understatement, perhaps.)

The company issued a statement to The Guardian explaining the survey — or at least, dance around explaining it:

We understand this survey refers to offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook and that we have no intention of allowing so have stopped the survey. We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days; we have no intention of changing this and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice.

I’m glad to hear Facebook isn’t going to change its policy on such things, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this survey was created in the first place. Someone had to sit down and think up that question, then send it out to users, and I’m morbidly curious as to what, if anything, Facebook intended to do with the answers it collected.

We’ve contacted Facebook to see if it could offer something, anything which would clarify this situation.

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