Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Connectivity

Offensive Content Still Plagues Facebook

New reports of failure to remove sexualized images of children raise questions about whether enough is being done to keep troubling content from servers.

Facebook is coming under renewed pressure to redouble its efforts to remove offensive content.

A new investigation by the BBC reveals that the social network failed to take down sexualized content relating to children when its presence was reported. The news organization alerted Facebook to 100 pieces of content, such as sexualized images of children and pages said to be “explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children,” using the report button that sits alongside content. Only 18 were deemed offensive and taken down upon initial reporting.

Facebook says that it has since “removed all items that were illegal or against our standards” and reported some to the police. But the news has raised concerns among politicians about whether or not the social network is doing enough to respond to inappropriate material.

They might have a point. The Wall Street Journal today explains that this time last year Facebook was rushing to prepare its new Live video streaming feature. But, reports the newspaper, the pace left employees with little time to plan how to deal with inappropriate content. In fact, it’s a problem that it still wrestles with today. Both pieces of news suggest that Facebook may not be doing all it can to protect users from offensive material.

It’s not a new problem for Facebook. In the past it’s come under heavy criticism for playing host to the kinds of content that can be used to radicalize young people and influence them to join terrorist organizations. 

Mark Zuckerberg has explained in the past that he hopes AI will help ease the problem in the future. But, as with its fake-news problem, there are plenty of issues standing in the way of implementing such technology, including the challenges of training a machine to accurately spot problematic content, as well as the difficulties surrounding freedom of speech and censorship when content issues become subjective. Instead, humans remain part of the vetting process, but it's unclear how many people deal with what must be a large volume of data.

Zuckerberg has recently envisioned a world where his powerful social network could be used to make the world a better place—to break down barriers, connect communities, and build one big, happy global Facebook family. Part of that vision was a vow to make the social network as safe and welcoming as possible. Those efforts, it seems, can't kick in soon enough.

(Read more: BBC, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, “Mark Zuckerberg Has Laid Out His Vision of a World United by Facebook,” “Facebook Will Try to Outsource a Fix for Its Fake-News Problem,” “Fighting ISIS Online’)

Couldn't make it to Cambridge? We've brought EmTech MIT to you!

Watch session videos

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Connectivity

What it means to be constantly connected with each other and vast sources of information.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.