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Facebook says asking users about condoning pedophilia ‘was a mistake’

Facebook has apologized for a survey that asked users for their opinion on allowing pedophiles to solicit sexual pictures from children on the platform. The Guardian reported on a small survey designed to gauge users’ opinions on Facebook policy. Alongside questions about topics like violent extremism, it asked how users would handle “a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.” One possible answer was “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it.” Facebook VP of product Guy Rosen tweeted an apology for the question, saying it “shouldn’t have been part of this survey.”

Rosen said this survey wasn’t meant to decide Facebook’s stance on pedophilia. “We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies,” he said. “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 Guardian published another statement from Facebook, which said that “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.”

The survey question asked users to imagine “an ideal world where you could set Facebook’s policies,” then state whether they’d be okay with seeing that content, whether they would allow it but wouldn’t want to see it, or whether they would ban it from the platform. In a follow-up question, Facebook asked whether Facebook, users, or outside experts should be in charge of making these calls. It seems pretty clear that Facebook was simply looking for an example of extremely offensive content, but the survey still implies that letting pedophiles solicit minors on Facebook is up for debate.