Users could be unnerved about the extent to which their conversations are reviewed, at least by computer programs.'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,' he said.
In addition, Facebook doesn't probe deeply into what it thinks are pre-existing relationships.
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Metaverse Chief Executive Amy Pritchard said that in five years her staff only intercepted something 'terrifying' once, about a month ago, when a man on a discussion board for a major media company was asking for the email address of a young site user.
Software recognised that the same person had been making similar requests of others and flagged the account for Metaverse moderators.
Under a 1998 law known as COPPA, for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, sites directed at those 12 and under must have verified parental consent before collecting data on children.
Some sites go much further: Disney's Club Penguin offers a choice of viewing either filtered chat that avoids blacklisted words or chats that contain only words that the company has pre-approved.
Things like too many 'unrequited' messages, or those that go unresponded to, also factor in, because they correlate with spamming or attempts to groom in quantity, as does analysis of the actual chats of convicted pedophiles.
Barring a wave of costly litigation or new laws, it is hard to see the protections getting much tougher, experts said.Facebook's software likewise depends on relationship analysis and archives of real chats that preceded sex assaults, Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters in the company's most expansive comments on the subject to date.Like most of its peers, Facebook generally avoids discussing its safety practices to discourage scare stories, because it doesn't catch many wrongdoers, and to sidestep privacy concerns.Another pillar in Facebook's strategy is to limit how those under 18 can interact on the site and to make it harder for adults to find them.Minors don't show up in public searches, only friends of friends can send them Facebook messages, and only friends can chat with them.They called the media company, which then alerted authorities.