The Guardian View: ‘Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy’ Anti-bullying organisation boss accuses social network of having a ‘dismal record’ in caring for users

Frances Haugen, chief executive of anti-bullying group Bullying UK, has accused Facebook of having a “dismal record” in caring for its users and of stoking division.

Ms Haugen wrote to Zuckerberg to demand a better response to complaints about abusive or violent content and a more transparent approach to what Facebook suggests to users on its News Feed.

In her letter, she said: “Every time the Government or anti-bullying organisations find complaints about Facebook’s abuse and bullying offences to be in need of urgent attention, you abandon your staff to the same fate.”

Bullying UK, which also ran a controversial Facebook campaign for Don’t Buy A Child, is challenging three of Facebook’s product standards.

Facebook introduced stricter rules for users last year after it was criticised by researchers for treating pictures of minors, like porn, as “child exploitation”.

Ms Haugen accused Facebook of having a “miserable” record in responding to complaints about abusive or violent content on its social network.

“Bullying too often goes unpunished, but we’ve recently investigated Facebook’s seemingly lackadaisical response to these issues,” she wrote.

Ms Haugen said Facebook had won an EU inquiry against the social network for allowing children to be singled out for their “artistic” content.

In 2015 the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers accused Facebook of failing to protect children by failing to remove “reflections of body parts” and depictions of female nipples.

Ms Haugen highlighted the case of a teenager who Facebook helped to start a page for the Facebook’s “throw a birthday party” feature.

She also pointed to numerous posts about paedophilia made by children on Facebook – including posts that she said was violating Facebook’s community standards.

Ms Haugen called on Facebook to share copies of the educational video it released about paedophilia with organisations to help understand what to do when it comes to reporting these posts.

Ms Haugen said Facebook was also “failing its global responsibility” to protect users under the age of 16 when protecting users.

She gave as an example a girl, who grew up after the Digital Economy Act, reported that she’d received unwanted Facebook requests from adults.

Facebook contacted the girl’s family, provided a link to Facebook’s “data safety notice” and told them to change their DNS settings to prevent her from accessing Facebook, she added.

A spokesman for Facebook UK said: “We have detailed policies in place to make sure our global platform remains a safe place for children and young people.

“Since the introduction of these new features last summer, we have worked hard to inform and educate our users and have repeatedly updated this policy.

“It has been equally important to educate our global policymakers on these new features.

“Our team members have worked hard and consistently to act on any reports we receive about inappropriate content.

“We have taken an incredibly strong approach to tackling abuse on our platform by employing a variety of real-time enforcement mechanisms with real-time knowledge.”

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