Facebook Apologizes For Inappropriate Search Suggestions

Facebook users were caught off guard by some seriously inappropriate search suggestions this week.

After entering the words “video of” into Facebook’s search bar, an undetermined number of users received such suggestions as “video of minor” and “video of little girl giving oral.” 

Once word got out, Facebook quickly fixed the problem and issued an apology.

“We’re very sorry this happened,” Facebook said in a statement. “We do not allow sexually explicit imagery, and we are committed to keeping such content off of our site.”

By way of explanation, Facebook said its search predictions are representative of what users are searching for, along with common search patterns.

So if a sizable share of users typically search for “movie showtimes,” then Facebook will suggest that word combination after other users search for the word “movie.”

Piling on the bad PR, this is just the latest offensive from Facebook.

Earlier this month, the company asked some U.K. users: “How would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.”

In response, Guy Rosen, vice president of product at Facebook, called the survey question a mistake, and explained: “We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies.”

Last year, Facebook let some advertisers target users based on keyword combinations like “Jew hater” and “How to burn jews.”

As with this latest search suggestion snafu, Facebook said those offensive ad categories were created by other users.

In other words, users filling out their profiles must have added descriptions like “Jew hater,” which then appeared to advertisers as potential categories, Facebook insisted.

Of course, the more recent offenses don't bode well for CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s resolution to rid Facebook of bad actors and inappropriate content this year.

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