Facebook is constantly polling its users and telling them how important their opinions are, but the social media firm seems to have gone overboard this time. Apparently, user opinions are so important to Facebook that it wanted to find out what people think about adult men soliciting teenagers for explicit photos. What makes this Facebook survey even creepier is that reporting such posts to law enforcement wasn’t even one of the suggestions.
Jonathan Haynes of The Guardian tweeted some images of the Facebook survey that was shown to him, including the answers that were available to choose. It was focused on various angles of child grooming, which is the unsavory practice of friending children or teens on social media and then building a relationship with them, generally with sexual abuse in mind.
Specifically, the Facebook survey wanted to know what users thought about “a private message in which an adult man asks a 14 year old [sic] girl for sexual pictures.” The company asked what users thought the rules for such content should be and offered options like making up its own rules, getting advice from experts outside the company, or letting users make the rules by voting on them.
Another question about child grooming seems to basically assume that people think they should be allowed to vote on the rules. The Facebook survey asks about how private messages from an adult man to a 14-year-old girl should be handled. One of the choices was to allow the content with this addition: “I would not mind seeing it.” Another option was to simply not allow the content and not let anyone see it. However, there was no choice to report child grooming posts to law enforcement.
It’s important to note that messages like the one being described in the Facebook survey are generally illegal in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. In other words, the social media firm was basically asking users about whether it’s OK to make children vulnerable and whether child grooming should be accepted, even though it’s illegal.
A spokesperson for Facebook issued a statement to Business Insider that child grooming is indeed against the social network’s policies and that they have no plans to begin allowing such posts. Because of all the flak that has been received over the creepy Facebook survey, the company stopped showing it to users.
Lawmakers in the U.K. doled out a healthy rebuke over the survey as well. In a statement sent to The Times, Labour MP Yvette Cooper called the Facebook survey “stupid and irresponsible.” She noted that it’s illegal, “completely wrong and an appalling abuse and exploitation of children.” She also said that even sending out such a survey suggests to users that the company might one day allow it.
The Facebook survey on child grooming certainly raised a lot of eyebrows on its own, but it becomes even more concerning when thinking about the company’s Messenger Kids app. The social media firm rolled out a version of its messaging app specifically for children under the age of 13 late last year, and in January, child health advocates called for the app to be dumped.
The company claimed that tying the Messenger Kids app to the account of children’s parents provides enough safety, but advocacy groups called it “irresponsible” to target children with such an app. That makes this recent Facebook survey the second time the company’s behaviors and attitudes toward serving minors have been called “irresponsible.” One would also question what looks like an intent of getting children addicted to social media as early as possible.