Facebook seems to have done something again that’s going to rile people up. The Guardian reports that Facebook asked some of its users to take a survey over the weekend. This survey had questions on what should or shouldn’t be allowed on the platform and who should police the content.
Among the questions, there was one particular one that read, “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 question could be answered that such content should be allowed and they wouldn’t mind seeing it, that it should be allowed but they wouldn’t want to see the content, that it shouldn’t be allowed or there’s no preference.
The follow-up question gets more interesting. Facebook then asked users for their opinion on who should decide the rules regarding such content on the platform. User response options included Facebook (on its own), Facebook with advice from external experts, external exports on their own or Facebook users.
Here’s the more disturbing part: in neither question did the survey acknowledge a role for law enforcement to come in or that in many places, such actions would be illegal.
The company has since stopped running the surveys. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of product, said they were “a mistake.” On Twitter, Rosen said, “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. We regularly work with authorities if identified. It shouldn’t have been part of this survey. That was a mistake.”
While Facebook was pretty quick to remove the surveys, the question remains as to why they were issued in the first place. It’s pretty mind-boggling that these types of surveys would even be considered in the first place. In a statement to the Guardian, Facebook said, “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.”