Facebook accused of making payments to 'independent' charity advising it on child protection

Social network accused of ‘cynical window dressing’ in its approach to child welfare

Facebook has been accused of making financial contributions to charities that independently advise it on child protection.

John Carr, a government-appointed executive board member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, reportedly accused the social network of “cynical window dressing” in its approach to child welfare, after a newspaper revealed that five charities on Facebook’s safety advisory board allegedly received “contributions” that could possibly compromise their independence.

The Times reported that British charity Childnet International received money from Facebook despite them not appearing on a list of supporters on its website.

It claimed Childnet International’s chief executive Will Gardner declined to say how much it received from Facebook but alleged the company paid for him and a colleague to travel to California for annual board meetings.

It quoted Mr Gardner as saying that the payments were “not something that clouds our [Childnet International’s] judgement” before he reportedly added that the company would not be able to advise Facebook without payment.

The Times went on to claim that Facebook initially denied paying any member of its child safety board but said it eventually admitted paying Childnet International when challenged.

The Times said Facebook additionally went on to admit it gave “a range of support”, including payment of subscriptions, sponsorship and free advertising, to the other four members on its safety advisory board - Connect Safely, the Family Online Safety Institute, WiredSafety and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

It also claimed that Facebook had asked its child safety board members to sign non-disclosure agreements to prevent competitors finding out about products it was developing.

Speaking to The Independent, a Facebook spokesman said: “The Safety Advisory Board work with us to achieve one goal - to make our products safer – and our close collaboration with them is in no way intended to stifle criticism. On the contrary, we welcome their frequent private and public feedback on what we do as a company. Like other leading technology companies we have a Safety Advisory Board who feed into the development of our products. All members are chosen as they are experts in a particular area of Internet safety, and as a result we frequently support their education campaigns and initiatives."