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Facebook criticised for its handling of reports about sexualised images of children

Dr Christine Harrison, Associate Professor in Social Work and Luke Tibbits, Professional Lead in Social Work comment on the news that Facebook failed to remove sexualised images of children from the platform,

"This week’s publicity about Facebook and its reluctance or unwillingness to take down sexualised images of girls and young women highlights a number of significant and worrying concerns that have become more pronounced over recent years. The first is the sexualisation of girls in particular, but children more generally, including but not confined to the widespread dissemination of images like those on Facebook. Such sexualised images blur the distinctions between adult women and girls, often presenting girls as though they are adult women and adult women as though they are girls. They help encourage the fallacious beliefs and ideas of male offenders about their sexual offending and that somehow girls have encouraged something of which they are they totally unaware. As Baroness Butler-Schloss warned in 2013, we have to challenge the perception that somehow the way that a girl dresses means that should be held responsible for sexual abuse."

"A second concern is that, of course, it is not only offenders that are influenced by the portrayal of girls and young women in sexualised ways, and crucially this may affect young people’s healthy sexual development and their expectations about intimate relationships. This mirrors concern about younger people’s easy access to sexual images through digital media that can both de-sensitise and brutalise sexual relationships and reinforce gender stereotypes."

"The third is the endless capacity of digital media to present transgressive materials in ways that position those who oppose them as either prudish or wanting to limit freedom of expression. Safeguarding children in the UK, and beyond, from sexual exploitation has been a major preoccupation in the light of findings from Rotherham, Rochdale and the Savile enquiry. Any gains from such endeavours are precious to survivors and potential victims. They are simply too precious to allow an application such as Facebook to blatantly flout its public responsibilities for child safeguarding. The concept that safeguarding children is the responsibility of everybody in society is not only pragmatic sentiment, but also a legal requirement, as enshrined within the policy document, ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2015)."


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