Facebook Error Forced Mother To Remove Photos of Her Child with Down Syndrome

Apr 25, 2012 4:02pm
ht facebook special olympics ll 120425 wblog Facebook Error Forced Mother To Remove Photos of Her Child with Down Syndrome

Image credit: Courtesy Diana Cornwell

Like many mothers, Diana Cornwell decided to upload photos of her 7-year-old son to Facebook on Friday night. It just so happens that her son has Down syndrome and the photos were of him participating in a local Special Olympics event.

A day later, she received the following message with those very photos of her son playing with other special needs children attached: “To keep your account active, please remove any photos that contain hate speech, support for violent organizations, or threats to harm others.” As a result, Cornwell’s Facebook account was then blocked for three days.

“There was nothing wrong with those pictures,” Cornwell told ABC News. And that’s exactly what Facebook realized after Cornwell’s story aired on her local NBC station last night.

Facebook has reactivated Cornwell’s account and issued the following statement to both ABC News and Cornwell:

“The photo was was taken down in error. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and we hope she’ll repost the photo and continue to share her son’s experience at the Special Olympics on Facebook.” Facebook also pointed out the many pages dedicated to the Special Olympics on the site.

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However, Cornwell isn’t satisfied with the statement or the explanation. “I understand that it is a computer program that allows these flags to happen and to block you, but Facebook has to find another way to handle this,” Cornwell told us firmly. “They need to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. They need to find another way.”

Facebook would not elaborate on the error. The social networking giant doesn’t explain on its site the process of flagging images or comments. It could have simply been that someone mistakenly flagged the photos and a computer glitch caused the message to be sent to Cornwell. It could have also been that it was a human error, a staff member making a mistake when looking at the page.

Whatever it is, Cornwell wants more from Facebook — and so do the 13,000 others who have signed a petition on The Petition Site. “Errors happen, and I understand that. But with technology, you have ways to correct problems. They have the ability to change how they do this. They certainly have the ability to apologize to me.”

Update: A Facebook spokesperson has now called Diana Cornwell to apologize and explain that this was a human error. Cornwell says she was told that a Facebook employee mistakenly flagged the photos.

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