Facebook says survey on underage sex photos was a mistake

It’s hard to believe that this actually happened, given all the problems Facebook has been having, but the company admitted to running a survey recently with some users that asked whether it would be acceptable for an adult man to ask a 14-year-old girl for sexual photos.

There are a wide range of topics and behaviors that appear on Facebook,” one question began. “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.” The options available to respondents ranged from “this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it” to “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it.”

Facebook Vice President of Product Guy Rosen said the surveys were a mistake. “We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies,” he said on Twitter on March 4. “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.” That seems like the understatement of the year.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Mathew Ingram is CJR's chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in The Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as Reuters and Bloomberg.