Last Night, a Child Pornography Video Spread Across Facebook

How did something so disturbing reach 16,000 views?
facebook from jail

The dark, dark, dark side of social networking.

Are you ready to burn the Internet to the ground, yet? If not, this ought to cinch it: Yesterday, a child pornography video started spreading like wildfire on Facebook. The Independent reported that it managed to garner 4,000 likes and 16,000 shares before engineers managed to scrub it completely from the site. Gawker puts the number even higher, at 32,000 shares and 5,000 likes.

Horrified users immediately began raising hell on Twitter:

But it was those very same appalled users who helped make the video spread so fast. Lots of people probably shared it on Facebook out of disgust, in attempt to flag it. Some Twitter users even began posting screencaps as evidence. In this situation: yes, you should be worried about triggering people and no, you should not be posting pics. There is no exemption to the laws around distributing child pornography, even if you were trying to raise awareness to get it taken down.

A Facebook spokesman told the Independent:

“Nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of the people that use our site, and this material has no place on Facebook.

“We have zero tolerance for child pornography being uploaded onto Facebook and are extremely aggressive in preventing and removing child exploitive content.

“We are pleased that this material was reported to us quickly enabling its swift removal.”

When you consider that this was child pornography, though, a few hours doesn’t exactly seem that swift. That leaves everyone asking how Facebook’s much-ballyhooed firewall failed to catch the material in the first place.

Back in May 2011, the company adopted Microsoft’s PhotoDNA technology, to catch content just like this. The problem is, that’s designed to catch new uploads of images the authorities already know about. It’s harder to spot anything new, until users flag it. The police in Dallas are currently investigating whether the video could have originated locally.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update if we learn more.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com