Report: Facebook Is Encouraging Teen Girls To Befriend Middle-Aged Men

Facebook has made it its mission to connect as many users as possible around the world. One of the ways it accomplishes this is through its “Suggested Friends” feature, which offers up an array of people you may (or may not) know in order for you to send them a friend request. This has proven to be a controversial tool, as many users have received suggestions for people in their past whom they have no desire to reconnect with. However, according to a recent report in The Telegraph, that may be the least of the feature’s problems.

Through an investigation, the newspaper and discovered that teen girls, some as young as 13 years old, are given up to 300 suggested friends when they join the platform—and that some of the suggested friends are middle-aged men posing without their shirts in their profile photos. A UK-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting children has already called for Facebook to suspend friend recommendations for minors. For its part, Facebook defended itself by saying that this did not represent a “typical” experience for teens who sign up for the site.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

Regardless of whether or not this is a “typical” experience, it’s clear that Facebook needs to strengthen its privacy protections for younger users—because even one incident like this is one too many.