Facebook scans chats and comments looking for criminal behavior

Facebook Login Close-up

Detailed in an article published by Reuters earlier today, Facebook employees notified law enforcement in South Florida after internal scanning software detected a suspicious conversation of a sexual nature between a 13-year-old girl and a man in his early thirties. When the software flags a conversation that could lead to criminal behavior, Facebook employees are notified and required to review the chat log or series of comments. If the conversation is deemed as seriously inappropriate and potentially criminal, Facebook employees notify local law enforcement.

Facebook PrisonFor instance, the conversation in South Florida likely contained an exchange of sexual comments in addition to personal information such as a home address. According to Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan, police officers used the girl’s Facebook account to continue the conversation and were able to place the man under arrest within 24 hours.

Charged with multiple counts of soliciting a minor, the man in question has plead not guilty to all charges. It’s likely that Facebook provides a full transcript of the entire conversation to law enforcement officials which can be used as evidence during a potential trial.

In order to catch pedophiles before they attack, the scanning software has analyzed real chat logs of that led up to a sexual assault of a minor in order to identify common phrases and keywords according to Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan. However, Sullivan indicated that the software doesn’t scan preexisting relationships as deeply. New relationships seem to be the focus of the software’s searches.

Sullivan stated “We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate.” Sullivan didn’t indicate if the software also compares a collection of potentially suspicious conversations to check and see if a pedophile has attempted to contact multiple children on the social network.

Facebook management attempts to reduce the amount of communication between adults and minors by limiting visibility in search listings. For instance, minors aren’t listed within the Facebook search tool. In addition, only direct friends of a minor can enter into an online chat with them. However, minors can easily navigate around this barrier by lying about their age when setting up a Facebook profile. For children clearly under the age of thirteen, Facebook has setup a policy of immediate account deletion when notified about an underage user.

However, Facebook is considering lifting the ban on preteens in the future. In order to make the social network accessible for a younger audience, the company has to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This law requires online sites to get the permission of a parent before enabling account access for a child younger than thirteen. Rather than having the child setup an account and issuing an email notification to the parent, Facebook could potentially create a system where the parent authorizes the account creation prior to the child’s involvement and sends the child a link through email or a text message that allows them to signup for an approved account. Hypothetically, the parent could also be setup as a permanent friend as well as have friend approval powers until the child becomes a teenager. 

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down worldwide for 2 hours this morning

Chaos erupted on the internet this morning, as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp all went down from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. Thousands of users were unable to access the sites or send or receive Whatsapp messages.
Mobile

Need a minute to yourself? Buy some alone time with the best tablets for kids

Looking to keep those tiny fingers and brains busy? Tablets aren’t just for grown-ups, and many are kid-friendly! Here's our list of the best tablets for kids, with parental controls and plenty of tempting features to satisfy your…
Cars

Keep your driving record squeaky clean with these top-flight radar detectors

Nobody likes getting a speeding ticket, but these gadgets can help. Check out our picks for the best radar detectors on the market, from the likes of Valentine One, Escort, and Beltronics.
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (April 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Mobile

Skype screen sharing for mobile will let you share your swipes on dating apps

Skype is prepping the launch of screen sharing for mobile so you can share your swipes on dating apps, shop with buddies, or, perhaps, show a PowerPoint presentation to coworkers. It's in beta just now, but anyone can try it.
Social Media

Facebook toys with mixing Stories and News Feed into one swipeable carousel

Facebook's News Feed could look a lot like Stories if a prototype the social media giant is working on rolls out to users. The design change mixes Stories and News Feed posts into a full-screen slideshow that users swipe left to navigate.
Social Media

No more moon showers as Facebook Messenger’s dark mode gets official rollout

Facebook Messenger launched a dark mode last month, but to activate it you had to message the crescent moon to someone. Now it's been rolled out officially, and it can be accessed in a far more sensible way — via settings.
News

Twitter has revealed a launch date for its handy hide replies features

Twitter has revealed a launch date for a feature that lets users hide replies to their tweets. The hope is that it will help the original poster filter out offensive or irrelevant content from conversation threads.
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Social Media

Facebook says it unintentionally uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million users

Facebook says that over the last two years it unintentionally uploaded the email contacts of 1.5 million users as they signed up to the social networking service. The process has ended and the email addresses are being deleted.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Photography

After controversial video, China bans ‘Leica’ on social media

A video that referenced Tiananmen Square got the name of the camera company Leica banned from the social media platform Weibo. Leica says the video wasn't an officially sanctioned promotion.
Photography

Photography News: Instagram’s disappearing likes, the best photos of the year

In this week's Photography News, see why Instagram is testing a version that excludes the number of likes a post gets. Also, see the impressive winners from two photography contests and the latest features coming to the Fujifilm X-T3.