Facebook reports BBC journos to police for reporting child abuse images

Facebook ban BBC journos journalists childOn Tuesday, Gizmodo reported that Facebook, the social media site now seen as the “world’s most dangerous censor,” reported a group of BBC journalists to police for providing — at their request — images of children found as part of their investigation of exploitation.  Worse yet, the report adds, the site only removed a fraction of the images that were reported and canceled an interview.

According to Gizmodo:

As part of an investigation into paedophile groups on Facebook, the BBC flagged 100 pieces of infringing content via the report button. Despite its own rule that “nudity or other sexually suggestive content” is forbidden, Facebook removed just 18. When the BBC pointed this out to director of policy Simon Milner and asked for an interview, he agreed on the condition the BBC provided examples of the images – for which Facebook then reported the journalists involved to the National Crime Agency.

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation,” Facebook said in a statement, “When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry’s standard practice and reported them to Ceop [the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre].”

While it’s possible Facebook was trying to cover its back rather than retaliate for pointing out the (many) issues with content on its platform, they could perhaps have mentioned their plan before requesting examples of images. It’s only journalists’ lives, reputations and livelihoods they were putting on the line, after all.

According to the BBC’s report, the social media giant said some of the content did not violate their standards — such as they are — included:

  • “Pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children
  • Images of under-16s in highly sexualised 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”

The BBC added:

Facebook’s rules forbid convicted sex offenders from having accounts.

But the BBC found five convicted paedophiles with profiles, and reported them to Facebook via its own system. None of them were taken down.

“I find it very disturbing, I find that content unacceptable,” said Mr Collins in response.

“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.”

“The moderation clearly isn’t being effective, I would question whether humans are moderating this, are looking at this, and also I think it is failing to take account of the context of these images,” Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, reportedly said after being shown what the BBC found.

Keep in mind, this is the same “moderation” that banned yours truly over an image of an eagle superimposed on a U.S. flag.  It’s also the same “moderation” that determined a picture of a Trump 2012 campaign button violated the site’s rules on nudity.  And it’s the same “moderation” that said one user’s profile picture of a lilac tree was pornographic.

Orwellian situations like this inspired Adina Kutnicki, an investigative journalist in Israel, and I to write “Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad.”  The book, available at Amazon.com and other locations, not only provides many examples of this “moderation,” it explains why it happens and what needs to be done to stop it.


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Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad
Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad – Source: Author (used with permission)

Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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