Parents Beware: Pedophiles Are Lurking on Facebook!

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A weeks-long investigation by has found that the world’s largest social network is allowing pedophiles and child predators on its website, creating an “underworld” of content that clearly violates not only Facebook’s terms of use, but also may include visual depictions of child sexual abuse.

According to a press release by Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough is Enough, a non-profit group dedicated to making the internet safer for children and family, Facebook filters are not working and have resulted in a dangerous situation for children.

“Where kids play, predators prey,” Hughes said. “Predators and pedophiles are taking advantage of this site to target children, swap child pornography and share their exploits.  It is entirely unacceptable that Facebook has allowed this content to surface on its site, and I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Apparently, Facebook employs content filters that automatically scan for basic keywords that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) identify as being associated with material that exploits children.  Unfortunately for Facebook, and the children being abused in the videos and photographs on the site, much of the content found during Fox’s investigation did include terms present in NCMEC’s list, indicating that if Facebook had been using the list as it should, much of the content found would not have been available on the site.

During the investigation, guided two Facebook executives through the site, showing them some of the vile content that was escaping their filters. The encounter left Joe Sullivan, the company’s chief security officer, “dumbfounded, unaware of and unable to explain the extremely graphic content on the site,” Fox reports.

In one case, Fox directed the executives to enter the term “PTHC” – a term included on the NCMEC’s list which means “pre-teen hard core” to pedophiles. The executives were suddenly face-to-face with a public group page that had 197 members with one post on the page directing members to a video of an eight year-old boy being sexually abused.

Fox reports that the executives were stunned into silence by what they were seeing, and were unable to explain why their filters failed to weed out the sordid content. 

Facebook launched an immediate investigation into the problem and removed the PTHC site the same day, but other pages flagged by Fox remain active.  

“This just continues to demonstrate that parents must be involved,” Hughes said. “While spaces like Facebook offer many opportunities for kids to connect, create and collaborate online, they also have provided an entrance into a world of dangerous, exploitative content just a few clicks away from any unsuspecting or curious teen.” 

In her work policing the Internet, Hughes said she has seen a “perfect storm” developing for Internet-initiated sexual crime against children.

“Never before have predators and pedophiles been able to hold a town hall together to share their exploits and encourage this type of horrific behavior, but now, through sites like Facebook, they can do just that,” she said. “We find that these individuals are often at the cutting edge of technology, they have easy access to child pornography and to children, and law enforcement, the technology industry and parents are often left in the dust, which is why we focus on reaching those parents and educating about prevention.”

She suggests that parents remain alert and monitor who their children are connecting with online and what kind of content they’re posting. She suggests using the Internet Safety Rules ‘N Tools designed by her organization to keep their children safe online. 

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