Facebook Reported BBC Journalists To The Police Because They Flagged Up Child Abuse Images

By Holly Brockwell on at

Facebook has reported a group of BBC journalists to the police for providing, at their request, child images found while investigating exploitation on the social network.

As part of an investigation into paedophile groups on Facebook, the BBC flagged 100 pieces of infringing content via the report button. Despite its own rule that "nudity or other sexually suggestive content" is forbidden, Facebook removed just 18. When the BBC pointed this out to director of policy Simon Milner and asked for an interview, he agreed on the condition the BBC provided examples of the images – for which Facebook then reported the journalists involved to the National Crime Agency.

"It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation," Facebook said in a statement, "When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry's standard practice and reported them to Ceop [the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre]."

While it's possible Facebook was trying to cover its back rather than retaliate for pointing out the (many) issues with content on its platform, they could perhaps have mentioned their plan before requesting examples of images. It's only journalists' lives, reputations and livelihoods they were putting on the line, after all.

Content reported by the BBC to Facebook which was not deemed to breach their "community standards" (lol) included:

  • "Pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children
  • Images of under-16s in highly sexualised poses, with obscene comments posted beside them
  • Groups with names such as "hot xxxx schoolgirls" containing stolen images of real children
  • An image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share child pornography"

To add insult to injury, after reporting journalists for complying with its request for examples of images that moderators had not removed, Facebook then cancelled the promised interview.

When the BBC went to the police with what they'd found on the secret groups, one of the Facebook members involved in posting the images was sent to prison for four years.

Great job, Facebook. Great job all round. [BBC]

Main image: Getty