Facebook asked users if it's okay for adults to sexually harass kids

The company’s VP of product called a recent survey “a mistake.”

Facebook is no stranger to blunders and it just added another to its running list. The Guardian reports that the company asked some of its users to take a survey over the weekend, with questions delving into what should or shouldn't be allowed on the site and who should police content. Among these questions was one that read, "There are a wide range of topics and behaviors that appear on Facebook. 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." Survey takers could respond that such content should be allowed and they wouldn't mind seeing it, that it should be allowed but they wouldn't want to see it, that it shouldn't be allowed or no preference.

In a follow-up question, Facebook then asked users for their thoughts on who should decide the rules regarding such content. Response options included Facebook on its own, Facebook with advice from external experts, external experts on their own or Facebook users. In neither question did the survey acknowledge a role for law enforcement or that in many places, such actions would be illegal.

Facebook has since stopped running the surveys and Guy Rosen, Facebook's VP of product, said they were "a mistake." Writing on Twitter, Rosen said, "We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies. 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."

Though it appears that Facebook was pretty quick to remove the questions, there's no reason they should ever have been there in the first place. And it's mind-boggling to think that anyone would have considered them to be appropriate queries to begin with. In a statement to the Guardian, Facebook said, "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. We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days; we have no intention of changing this and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice."

Image: Facebook via Jonathan Haynes