A Facebook survey recently asked users if it was acceptable for an adult man to ask a 14-year-old girl for sexually explicit pictures on the social network.
Guardian editor Jonathan Haynes tweeted pictures of the survey Monday, though it's unclear how long it had been running and how many responses it received.
The question stated: "There are a wide range of topics and behaviors that appear on Facebook. 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."
The response options were:
- This content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it
- This content should be allowed on Facebook, but I don't want to see it
- This content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it
- I have no preference on this topic
A second question asked who should decide the acceptability of such an action.
The question: "When thinking about the rules for deciding whether a private message in which an adult man asks a 14 year old girl for sexual pictures should or should not be allowed on Facebook, ideally who do you htink should be deciding the rules?"
The response options:
- Facebook decides the rules on its own
- Facebook decides the rules with advice from external experts
- External experts decide the rules and tell Facebook
- Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook
- I have no preference
Facebook Vice President of Product Guy Rosen responded to Haynes and said the survey question was a "mistake."
"We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies. But this kind of activity is and will always be completely unacceptable on FB," Rosen wrote. "We regularly work with authorities if identified. It should have been part of this survey. That was a mistake."
He did not address why Facebook did not include the option to inform relevant authorities in the survey.
"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," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "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."
Yvette Cooper, a member of the UK Parliament, lambasted the survey in the Guardian.
"This is a stupid and irresponsible survey. Adult men asking 14-year-olds to send sexual images is not only against the law, it is completely wrong and an appalling abuse and exploitation of children," she said. "I cannot imagine that Facebook executives ever want it on their platform but they also should not send out surveys that suggest they might tolerate it or suggest to Facebook users that this might ever be acceptable.”
In February, a pornographic image of a young girl and an adult man went viral on Facebook Messenger. Thousands of people shared the message, intending to condemn it and catch the perpetrator, before Facebook stopped it. A Florida police sergeant called the message "a nationwide epidemic."
The Guardian reported that the Facebook survey continued and asked users about the company's responsibility to moderate extremist content. European Union regulators have told Facebook and other tech giants that they will face stringent regulation if the companies do not demonstrate by June that they are successfully keeping extremist content off their platforms.