Facebook blog post outlines response to child abuse and hate speech scandal revealed in Dispatches

Anthony Cuthbertson

Facebook has said it is working to "update guidance for reviewers" after a documentary exposed content moderators deliberately allowing posts that contained child abuse and hate speech.

An undercover reporter for Channel 4's Dispatches trained as a content moderator at CPL, a Facebook outsourcer in Dublin.

They revealed some controversial practices of the social media giant.

The Inside Facebook: Secrets of a Social Network documentary appeared to show moderator trainers instructing new recruits to ignore racist content in accordance with company policies.

The undercover reporter was also told to ignore underage accounts, even if users who appeared to be under the social network's 13-year-old age limit were thought to be self-harming.

“No-one under 13 can have an account. If they’re lying we ignore that they are lying," the trainer explained. "People have to admit that they are under 13 for us to act – if not, we just pretend that we’re blind and we don’t know what an underage looks like.”

Facebook responded to the documentary by updating a blog post by Monika Bickert, the firm's vice president of global policy management, which had initially outlined the social media giant's "clear rules" about what is acceptable on its platform.

The updated post stated: "We do not allow people under 13 to have a Facebook account. If someone is is reported to us as being under 13, the reviewer will look at the content on their profile (text and photos) to try to ascertain their age. If they believe the person is under 13, the account will be put on a hold and the person will not be able to use Facebook until they provide proof of their age."

It concluded: "Since the program, we have been working to update the guidance for reviewers to put a hold on any account they encounter if they have a strong indication it is underage, even if the report was for something else."

Beyond the apparent flouting of rules regarding underage users, the Dispatches documentary also revealed special protections given to Tommy Robinson and other far-right figures that have a significant following on the social network.

Footage showed that moderators would remove a post targeting Muslims with racist language, but not necessarily if the post targeted Muslim immigrants as it could be counted as a political statement.

The documentary comes as Facebook faces criticism for hate speech on its platform, as well as so-called fake news.

Last week it was forced to defend hoax stories and conspiracy theories appearing on its site, labelling them "free speech" in a dispute over the InfoWars media outlet.

"We just don't think banning pages for sharing conspiracy theories or false news is the right way to go... We believe banning these pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech," Facebook said on Twitter.