Facebook does not know how many UK users are under 13
Senior executive Julie de Bailliencourt also said it does not attempt to verify if someone trying to create an account is a registered sex offender.
Facebook does not know how many under-13s or sex offenders are using its platform in the UK, an inquiry has heard.
The social media giant also uses no methods to try to verify if a given date of birth is accurate or if someone attempting to create an account is on the sex offender register, according to a senior executive.
Senior global operations manager Julie de Bailliencourt, the former global safety policy manager, gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on Tuesday.
Ms De Bailliencourt says that you must be over 13 to create a Facebook account - "something we are enforcing as much as possible". She adds that registered sex offenders are not allowed to create accounts. #InternetHearing Watch live: https://t.co/dGQI3e7Te4— InquiryCSA (@InquiryCSA) May 14, 2019
Jacqueline Carey, lead counsel to the inquiry, asked her: “Does Facebook have any idea about how many potential registered sex offenders might be using or seeking to use Facebook to have an account?”
Ms De Bailliencourt replied: “No, and I think one of the difficulties – and that’s really related to the UK – is that this registry’s not open to the public, so I would hazard law enforcement may be best placed to understand the scope.”
Asked if the site makes any checks including using open source methods to determine if someone may be a sex offender, she said: “We don’t make this check at this time.”
Ms De Bailliencourt confirms that a teenager would not have to verify their age or other details when setting up an account. “There may be moments where if our team believe that there is a potential that they may be under the age of 13, we may remove the account,” she adds. pic.twitter.com/avs1U8Rh8H— InquiryCSA (@InquiryCSA) May 14, 2019
The site, which has around 40 million UK users, has some “technical hurdles” to stop under-age users registering, and Ms de Bailliencourt also noted that teachers, parents or family members can report an account once it is set up.
Ms Carey asked: “Do you know the number of accounts attempted to be set up by UK users who are in fact under 13?”
Ms De Bailliencourt replied: “I don’t know this number”.
Ms De Bailliencourt says users are not required to provide any identification to Facebook to verify their details when signing up. “We are taking some initial steps in looking at technology to improve the effectiveness of our mechanism,” she adds. #InternetHearing pic.twitter.com/RMXyhUwTjG— InquiryCSA (@InquiryCSA) May 14, 2019
The site has 30,000 people working globally on “safety and security” – around half of whom review and moderate content, the inquiry heard.
If content is flagged indicating a child may be in danger, it is reported to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and then passed on to law enforcement, Ms de Bailliencourt said.
She added: “We routinely report to NCMEC anything that would be indicative of the exploitation of a child. I believe those reports then turn into cyber tips when law enforcement receive them.”
NCMEC is based in the US but shares information with agencies in other countries.
The IICSA is conducting its second investigation phase, into how the internet is used to facilitate child sexual abuse in England and Wales through acts like grooming, sharing indecent images and live-streaming abuse.
The mother of a sister and brother sexually groomed and abused online earlier told the inquiry that tech companies should be made to pay compensation to victims.
The witness recalls checking her son's laptop one night and finding he was logged in to a site called BearShare. "There were rude photographs and pictures and it just didn't look like a site he should have been on," she says. #InternetHearing— InquiryCSA (@InquiryCSA) May 14, 2019
Her son and daughter, aged 12 and 13 at the time, were groomed through the now-defunct online platform BearShare, by Anthony O’Connor, then 57, who made the boy sexually touch his sister as he watched.
The siblings are not eligible for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority because the abuse they suffered took place wholly online, the hearing was told.
The mother, who cannot be identified, said: “I feel very strongly that people who create the websites should take responsibility. They should be the ones paying compensation to my children.
“Because of what I went through as a child the only thing I wanted to do was be perfect, you know, the best mother in the world, and look after my kids.
“And I did that, but because of the internet, they made me fail as a parent, and unless you’ve been through this you’ve got no idea how it impacts on you.”
The hearing continues.