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Facebook has announced a new safety centre, claiming that "Safety is Facebook's top priority". But as I revealed just over a month ago, there are big problems with Facebook's procedures for reporting abusive content on groups, pages and forums.

And here's the proof. The content I complained about as part of that blog post is still live - comments which include racist language and false accusations of murder.

Accusing the wrong person of murder

Here's a Facebook page called Baby P's parents should be jailed for more than 12 years!

As I'd pointed out, Baby B's father had nothing to do with his death - it was the mother and boyfriend who were found guilty of his murder.

That page - accusing an innocent father of the murder of his child - is still live, five weeks after I reported it. The screenshot shows I can't report it again.

Screenshot saying I'd already submitted a report for this content

Racist language

Here's a Facebook discussion board about rugby songs, featuring language like:

"Down in Alabama where the n****rs shovel coal another n****r shoved a shovel up a n*****s hole".

This board, with its racist language, is still live, five weeks after I reported it.

Screenshot saying I'd already reported this

Blaming Kate McCann for her daughter's death

Here's a Facebook discussion accusing Kate McCann of murdering her daughter. One comment says:

I suspect so too... Anyway.. If Madeleine against all odds is found, I think it would be inappropiate to return her to her parents. What c***s!

This comment - agreeing that Mrs McCann is guilty of her daughter's death - is still live, five weeks after I reported it.

Screenshot saying I'd already reported this

Accusing an innocent man of being a child murderer

Here's a Facebook page that accuses an innocent man of really being the killer of Jamie Bulger. The comment says (I've masked the innocent man's name):

D**** C****** is the new name of john venables. He lives in fleetwood!!!!!! The sick bloke that killed that younge lil boy. 

This comment - accusing an innocent man of being child killer Jon Venables - is still live, five weeks after I reported it.

Screenshot saying I'd already reported this content

Facebook needs to tighten up its procedures

Most of the attention on Facebook lately has been around whether or not to include a CEOP panic button.

But as these examples show, Facebook has wider problems than this. I identified three key flaws with its reporting procedure:

  • Some content that's impossible to flag.
  • No way to explain why some content is inappropriate, which means Facebook has to work it out itself.
  • Confusing error messages that tell you that you can't report content, even though you can.

Nothing in Facebook's latest announcement addresses these problems.

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Published 14 April, 2010 by Malcolm Coles

Malcolm Coles is Director at Digital Sparkle and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also blogs at malcolmcoles.co.uk. You can follow him on Twitter here.

16 more posts from this author

Comments (22)

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Luke

Wow - five weeks is not acceptable. Did they deal with any reports you haven't mentioned?

They clearly can't cope. I wonder if there is scope for a community moderator team. One where modrrators themselves are punished if they do not act within a tight set of terms.

over 6 years ago

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO at 7thingsmediaSmall Business Multi-user

An insightful article which should surely make agencies/brands re-consider their strategies of using Facebook as an advertising platform.

Are we going to see this damage Facebook's aggressive advertising aims?

Is this going to be the new media worry from the days of display ads appearing on "happy slapping" websites in 2006??

Brands are you worried???

Discuss

over 6 years ago

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Dave

Blaming Madeleine McCann of her daughter's death - Should that not read kate? Facebook should take active users who have proven their maturity and give them moderator status otherwise there's no way they can keep on top of the amount of abuse reported.

over 6 years ago

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malcolm coles

Dave: Yes, it should read Kate. Late-night blogging, sorry :( - I'll ask someone to change it.

Luke - one whole page I originally discussed had been taken down, but I don't know if it was because of me as (a) you don't get any feedback when you report and (b) I had no way to tell them why I was complaining so who knows if it was me or someone else's complaint.

over 6 years ago

Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

Wow, frustrating. But not completely unexpected given the knee jerk reaction FB have shown in their response to this issue.

The other aspect that concerns me is the proposed “Panic” button to report suspected pedophiles or sex offenders. Specifically the ramifications of false accusations via friendly hi-jinks or malicious intent. How can it be proved or disproved? What recourse is there for those whose reputations are tarnished?

over 6 years ago

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tanya

Im a member of a group asking FB to remove these groups/posts. I had my account disabled for reporting !!!

I reported one post from a man who commented in great detail how he had raped his 11yr old daughter !!!! After I reported this, I was disabled and when I fought to get my account back, I went on to find this disgusting post and this man still active on FB !!!

As far as I can see, FB dont investigate the reports made, they merely are removing/disabling on the amount of times these posts are reported, which is all wrong, as it seems the site is taken over by "trolls" who appear to be in their 1000s !

I have been threatened, call disgusting names and one member "Ainsley Harriot" whose avatar was of the real Ainsley posted pictures of mutlilated genitila allover our group. He blocked admin so we could not see his posts, only our members could. I have also had my account cloned, pictures stolen and messages sent to members of our group.

Facebook have NO CONTROL whatsoever over their site and need major changes!

over 6 years ago

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princo

Wow, frustrating. But not completely unexpected given the knee jerk reaction FB have shown in their response to this issue.

over 6 years ago

Billie Andersen

Billie Andersen, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

This is really frustrating, and I too have reported racist comments within a group on facebook. That was about 6 months ago and checking back just now it's still there!

As far as I can see there is no feedback procedure once content is reported and users' expectations are not set about how the procedure works or when they can expect to see some action taken. The self-policing that occurs in lots of communities is not working here (probably due to the size of the community!) and so Facebook should take greater control.

over 6 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Mmm, who's idea was it to let everybody and anybody have an outlet for their warped opinions anyway...

FB really do need to sort it out though, will be interesting to see how much pressure can be brought to bear using social networking tools!

over 6 years ago

Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

@Princo, if you're going to plagarise someone else's comment, perhaps you should wait until the original author's is off the page...

over 6 years ago

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Malcolm Coles, Director at Digital Sparkle

Chris: It's the new lame form of comment spam. Copy a bit of someone else's comment (or copy a para from the article) a so it looks a reasonable comment and hope the blog owner doesn't notice they've seen it before somewhere ...

over 6 years ago

Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

Thanks, Malcolm...I figured as much. To his credit, the guy makes an awesome point!

over 6 years ago

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Michael Batey

Would be great to get an official response from FB on the issues raised here.

Michael

over 6 years ago

Andy Headington

Andy Headington, CEO at Adido LimitedSmall Business

We've also reported abusive/offense comments in FB in the past and nothing has happened. When I say past I mean about 3-4 months ago! The questions I'm asking myself after reading this and our own experience is if they have ANY processes in place at all!?!? it can't be that hard to sort out surely?

over 6 years ago

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Robert

Welcome to free speech.  These are the kinds of things people say around pubs and bus stops.  This is what humans say to each other on the way to the market, at work, in emails.  This is human communication, free speech and community.  No one is being exploited by this, no crimes being planned.

I am myself pertty certain the McCanns killed their daugther.  At the least they should go to jail for leaving her alone as they went out to dinner. 

I fear the kind of censored world you are pushing for here man.

I have filed complaints to Flickr about pedophile material involving children in Vietnam.  When you see someting really criminal let us know.

over 6 years ago

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Malcolm Coles, Director at Digital Sparkle

Robert: free speech isn't the issue here.

These posts are all against Facebook's terms of use. By Facebook's own rules, you can't use racist language or accuse people of being murderers or pedophiles.

Given this, Facebook needs a system to deal with cases where these terms are broken. This process doesn't work.

Whether you agree or not with the posts is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Facebook's system for dealing with breaches of its own terms is flawed.

over 6 years ago

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Amy

A few weeks ago I was on a friends page saying how disgusting I thought another page was because of the fowl language they used and the way they attacked people. Then I was just on my news feed I see one of the admins of that page has print screen my comment put it on his page and basically said Im a c*** this that and the other then invited people to do the same. Over 60 comments all with the words Amy your a c***, I found out who owned the page asked nicely if he would remove it which he didnt then went back to his page and just took the mick out of me for asking. So I reported the photo and a couple of friends did and its still up! It makes me sick facebook has really let some people down! 

almost 6 years ago

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luigi

if facebook will not delete any photos reported, what can i do to delete the,? go to the police?

over 5 years ago

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James

Does the notification "you have allready submitted a report for this content" mean that your report is waiting in line to be processed by facebook or will it stay there forever after you have reported someone?

Will it be there forever when I press the report button? I think that it should disappear to indicate that the report has been received and processed but does that ever happen?

Please tell me if you know, so that I wont be wasting time tracking it anymore.

over 5 years ago

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candy harden

Yes i must agree. I just started using facebook to look up old friends that i went to school with and my ex's. Looking back in time 15 years old. Well one of my ex's his wife got invovled. She has called me the n**** word and my husband is a slave master. My husband had to retire from the army and we do have friends in the goverenment, which my ex boyfriend (keep in mind it has been 15 years ago we were seeing each other) wife is calling them retards and b****ds. then starts on my again. All i told her and her husband was that i wish them the best however i printed everything she said and i told her that too. Oh yeah my ex boyfriend wife also said i was a disgrace to human nature yet i reported her to facebook. Nothing is done about however i did call my goverenment friends and going after her for slander!!!

over 5 years ago

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candy harden

Yes i must agree. I just started using facebook to look up old friends that i went to school with and my ex's. Looking back in time 15 years old. Well one of my ex's his wife got invovled. She has called me the n**** word and my husband is a slave master. My husband had to retire from the army and we do have friends in the goverenment, which my ex boyfriend (keep in mind it has been 15 years ago we were seeing each other) wife is calling them retards and b****ds. then starts on my again. All i told her and her husband was that i wish them the best however i printed everything she said and i told her that too. Oh yeah my ex boyfriend wife also said i was a disgrace to human nature yet i reported her to facebook. Nothing is done about however i did call my goverenment friends and going after her for slander!!!

over 5 years ago

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lainey

facebook have just blocked me....i am a charity craft shop....and have asked for loads of id to be send via email,is this normal? all of our photo's are of wooden bowls and handmade goods but they are saying we have violated the terms of use,why would they do that?

about 4 years ago

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