A BBC investigation has found that paedophiles are using secret facebook groups to swap and comment on images of children.
All they have to do is create a facebook group, set it to “secret,” and only invite those who share the same interests. The privacy setting ensures that no one else can find it; they must receive an invite from an existing member to be let in.
Some of the photos had been taken by group members in public places. Others were snatched from newspapers and blogs.
“In one secret group called ‘cute teen schoolies,’ we found a picture of a girl in a vest, aged 10 or 11, accompanied by the words ‘yum yum.’ Facebook responded that it did not breach ‘community standards’ and the image stayed up.”
When the BBC reported some of the groups they found to facebook, only some of them were taken down.
Read the full article and watch a video of the investigation here.
- This is a classic example of something neutral being used for destructive purposes. There are many reasons to have a private group – planning a surprise party, staying in touch with a group of close friends, families sharing photos privately – so private groups in themselves aren’t bad. But their misuse can be extremely harmful.
- Anonymity can unfortunately breed exploitative behaviour. While it would be difficult for facebook to go through every single secret group one-by-one, they could set up an algorithm that picks up warning flags. For example, if a secret group uses words like sexy, teen, schoolgirl, or nude a certain number of times, it should automatically flag the group so facebook can investigate.
- Parents should also be careful what photos they post online, especially on blogs that can be seen by anyone, as there is always a risk that a predator is on the prowl for new material.