What you need to know

  • Facebook has a two-year plan to tackle grooming and child exploitation on its platforms
  • Measures reported include flagging of profiles, and scanning photo comments for patterns of suspicious behaviour.
  • Will also seek to redesign how users report inappropriate and illegal behaviour.

A report from the Financial Times has detailed how Facebook plans to combat online grooming and child exploitation across its platforms over the next two years.

According to the report, Facebook is seeking to balance its plan to encrypt messaging across its platforms with the need to monitor and prevent the exploitation of children. The report, via 9to5Mac quotes Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of security:

She said Facebook's goal was to shift from flagging and removing illegal content to preventing abusers from contacting potential victims in the first place.

"When you find content, the problem with that is the harm has already been done. Ultimately you want to prevent that content from being shared in the first place, or from being created," Ms Davis said. "So the way we are thinking about it is, how can we stop these connections?"

She said Facebook could look at user profiles and flag someone making a series of requests to minors they do not know, or people who are part of suspicious groups. She added that the company could also scan photographs for comments to flag patterns of bad behavior.

Other alerts could include large age gaps between people communicating privately on Messenger or Instagram Direct Messages, frequency of messaging, and people that lots of users are blocking or deleting, she added.

Facebook also plans to redesign how users can report inappropriate and illegal behaviour to make it more accessible to people in "sensitive moments" when they most need it. Also reported was how questions over child exploitation and online grooming had given made him pause when considering the question of encryption.

The news comes in wake of a joint appeal to Facebook from US, UK and Australian governments imploring them not to switch to end-to-end encryption.