UPDATED 22:39 EST / MARCH 13 2022

POLICY

Facebook fails to take down grooming sites targeting pre-teens

Problems with content moderation on Meta Platforms Inc.-controlled platforms, particularly Facebook, have been detailed over the years, but at a time the company should be getting better, it appears it’s not.

In a disturbing report today for Wired, Lara Putnam details how she stumbled across disgusting child-grooming groups on Facebook. Many of the groups were clearly targeted at children with cute graphics but then asking questions such as “Looking for a 9-year-old girlfriend.”

Notably, children under 13 are supposed to be banned from Facebook.

The way Putnam first stumbled across these groups is staggering: She was attempting to search for information on the 10th, 11th and 12th wards in Pittsburgh but instead found groups with those numbers in them targeting children.

Where Facebook has failed once again is that although it regularly targets political speech and words it doesn’t like, except if that speech calls for death to Russians, which is now allowed, it seemingly ignores children.

Putnam notes that she spent months reporting the groups and trying to have them taken off Facebook, but with little success.

“As late as January 2022 — three months into my efforts to get action taken against them — if I searched 11, 12, 13 on the platform, 23 of the first 30 results were groups targeting children of those ages,” Putnam wrote, “with group names that included the words boyfriend/girlfriendnovio/a, or niños/niñas, sometimes along with ‘pervertidos,’ ‘hot,’ etc. They totaled over 81,000 members.”

Meta and Facebook have made noises in the past about protecting children, but it is seemingly always around the outskirts of what many would consider significantly more severe, such as the groups detailed by Putnam.

In July, Facebook announced it was restricted advertising from targeting people under the age of 18, while the same year, documents leaked about how the company wants to target the kids market more.

“Surely due diligence would dictate proactive steps to prevent the creation of such groups, backed up by quick action to remove any that get through once they are flagged and reported,” Putnam concluded.

Photo: dole777/Unsplash

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