Facebook has been forced to apologize for publishing a disturbing survey that asked whether an adult man should be allowed to solicit “sexual pictures” from an underage girl.
On Sunday, U.K. Guardian editor Jonathan Haynes noted that the survey had “popped up 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,” read one of the questions in the survey.
Users were given several options to respond, including one choice that said such content “should be allowed, and I would not mind seeing it.”
Another question asked users who should decide whether or not adult men should be permitted to solicit sexual pictures from underage girls.
“Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook” was one option, while another was, “Facebook decides the rules on its own.”
As noted by The Guardian, users were not given the option to alert law enforcement in order to turn in the hypothetical sexual predator.
After receiving widespread criticism, Facebook apologized for the survey, calling it a “mistake.”
“We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product. “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.”
The company seemed to be doing its best to distance itself from 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 spokesperson for the social media network 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,” the statement continued.
But unsurprisingly, the survey received near universal condemnation.
“This is a stupid and irresponsible survey,” said Yvette Cooper, a member of Britain’s parliament and the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
“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. 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.”
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