Leaked Document Indicates Facebook may be Underreporting Images of Child Abuse

Leaked Document Indicates Facebook may be Underreporting Images of Child Abuse

According to The New York Times, a training manual used by Facebook's content moderators raises concerns about whether the social network is under-reporting photographs of suspected child sexual assault. When reviewing pictures, the document instructs moderators to "err on the side of an adult," a practice that moderators have criticized but company officials have supported.

The question is how Facebook administrators should treat photographs in which the subject's age is not readily apparent. That choice has severe ramifications because suspected child abuse imagery is submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which directs photos to criminal authorities. On the other hand, adult-themed images may be deleted from Facebook if they violate corporate policies but are not submitted to outside sources.

However, as The New York Times points out, there is no accurate way to discern age from an image. Moderators are supposedly trained to recognize "the various phases of puberty" using a 50-year-old procedure, although the process "was not meant to ascertain someone's age." And, because Facebook's standards urge moderators to presume photographs they are unsure about are of adults, moderators fear many images of youngsters are slipping through the cracks.

This is exacerbated further by the fact that Facebook's contract moderators, who work for outside organizations and do not receive the same perks as full-time workers, may only have a few seconds to decide and may be fined if they make the incorrect mistake.

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Jessica Vieira
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Jessica Vieira
Jessica Vieira is ProductReviews's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology.

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