How Did The Pornography Make It On To Facebook?

By now you’ve probably seen at least one post or news about a rash of pornographic images that flooded Facebook’s news feeds, along with some violent photos as well. But how did content expressly prohibited by the site proliferate on the social network?

We asked Facebook to comment on the phenomenon, and soon after noticed that the site quietly pulled these images and the threads.

A spokesperson had thanked me for “flagging” these images (Is that what I did?) last night. This morning I received an email statement saying simply, “Facebook is aware of these reports and we are investigating the issue.”


I had inquired yesterday about whether the posts had exhibited any signs of homophobia or other patterns, and told the Facebook spokesperson that these concerns had kept me from writing about the photos as quickly as I otherwise would have.

Most likely some form of spamware virus tagged the images so that they appear on people’s profiles featuring the gender(s) that the recipient is interested in.

The fact that these photos spread for as long as 48 hours unchecked how much Facebook relies on individual users to flag inappropriate content: people were commenting on the images’ novelty more than clicking on any “report” links.

Perhaps tellingly, a page called “Stop Facebook From Becoming A Porn Site” garnered only 64 likes by the time of this posting.

The pornographic images have been usurped by posts that link to articles concerning the photos, and comments on these links are keeping the topic alive: How is it that the photos made it up on the site in the first place?

This isn’t the first time that pornographic images have become spam on the site, but more than a year has passed since the last time we saw anything like it; and this time around the photos are much more explicit than the ones going up in August, 2010.

Clearly, Facebook’s photo recognition software doesn’t yet include any mechanism for recognizing pornography, but we suspect that such capabilities are now on the to-do list for engineers at the social network.

This latest incident may also motivate the social network to create educational posts about what type of content is allowed, why certain material is prohibited and how users can flag inappropriate items.

Readers, what’s your reaction to this latest rash of pornographic and violent images that have gone up on the site?

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