SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is under fire for asking users whether pedophiles should be able to proposition underage girls for sexually explicit photographs on the giant social network.
The survey is the latest in a series of missteps by the Silicon Valley company, which has been criticized for allowing content that exploits children.
From violence on its Live streaming service to hate speech to divisive messages sent by Russian operatives trying to to meddle in the U.S. presidential election, toxic content flowing through its platform has heightened scrutiny of Facebook.
Facebook scrapped the survey that posed questions about teens being groomed by older men after it was spotted by media outlets in the United Kingdom. It now says the survey could have been better “designed.”
The company routinely uses surveys to get feedback from the social network’s more than 2 billion users. More recently, Facebook has been relying on user surveys to take their pulse on everything from the “fake news” epidemic to whether Facebook makes them happy as people have stopped spending as much time there.
But the two questions in Sunday’s survey shocked and angered Facebook users.
“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,” Facebook asked.
Sexual contact with minors online, part of a “grooming process” in which adults seek to gain trust and lower inhibition, is often a precursor to sexual abuse.