Facebook allowed underage users, extreme content on site, investigation finds

Facebook is ignoring underage users and knowingly permitting extreme content to remain on its platform, a new investigation in the United Kingdom has found.

Channel 4’s Dispatches TV program conducted an undercover probe of the web behemoth’s content moderation efforts and found that employees allowed racist or violent posts to stay on Facebook.

The investigation revealed that Facebook’s U.K. moderation operation, which it outsources to a firm in Dublin, has a backlog of 7,000 daily complaints about posts.

The Sun reports that footage shot by an undercover reporter showed one staffer saying: “If you start censoring, people lose interest. It’s all about making money at the end of the day.”

Another staff member in the documentary, which airs Tuesday, shared information about the massive tech company’s efforts to curtail users under the age of 13.

“We have to have an admission that the person is underage,” they said, according to the Sun. “If not, we just like pretend that we are blind and that we don’t know what underage looks like.”

Another explosive comment in the film comes from Roger McNamee, one of the site’s earliest investors, who says that extreme content is Facebook’s money-making “crack-cocaine.”

“If you’re going to have an advertising based business, you need them to see the ads, so you want them to spend more time on the site,” he said, reports the Sun. “They want as much extreme content as they can get.”

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During a training session to join the moderation team, the British broadcaster’s undercover reporter was shown a cartoon of a girl appearing to be drowned with the caption: “When your daughter’s first crush is a little negro boy.”

The reporter was told this was a post that should not be removed.

The Sun reports that Facebook allowed Britain First, a far-right group, to stay on the platform—even after more violations that the rules allow—in a bid to protect Facebook’s bottom line. Facebook did eventually ban the group in March.

In the documentary, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Policy, Richard Allan, said: “You’ve identified some areas where we’ve failed, and I’m here today to apologize for those failings.”

Allan went on to say the company is committed to taking those failings seriously and addressing them.

In a statement, Monika Bickert, Facebook's vice president of global policy management, said that the TV report "raised important questions" about the company's policies and process,  including guidance given during training sessions in Dublin. "It’s clear that some of what is in the program does not reflect Facebook’s policies or values and falls short of the high standards we expect," she wrote.

"We take these mistakes incredibly seriously and are grateful to the journalists who brought them to our attention. We have been investigating exactly what happened so we can prevent these issues from happening again," she added. "For example, we immediately required all trainers in Dublin to do a re-training session — and are preparing to do the same globally. We also reviewed the policy questions and enforcement actions that the reporter raised and fixed the mistakes we found."

The report has again thrust Facebook into the spotlight. The social network has taken heat from critics on multiple fronts recently, whether in terms of its efforts to battle fake news or its mishandling of user data during its interaction with now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. 

 

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.