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Facebook was criticized for a survey that asked for opinions on how to handle an adult asking for sexual pictures from a child. PDPics/Pixabay

Facebook ran a strange and highly criticized survey over the weekend that asked users if they thought it was appropriate for an adult male to ask for sexually explicit photos from an underage girl.

First reported by the Guardian, the survey appeared to be an attempt by the social media company to determine how active people expect it to be in monitoring the behavior of its users. The company has since apologized for the questionnaire.

The survey wasted little time getting into questions regarding pedophilia. “There are a wide range of topics and behaviours that appear on Facebook,” the first question began. “In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook’s policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.”

Facebook provided users with a range of responses to choose from, which included answers like “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it;” “This content should be allowed on Facebook, but I don’t want to see it;” “This content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it;” or “I have no preference on this topic.”

Continuing on the line of questioning that imagines a grown man asking a young girl for sexually explicit photos, Facebook also asked its users how rules regardings such behavior should be determined. The options included allowing Facebook to set the rules, having experts determine what is permissible and surveying Facebook users as to what they would allow.

The answers to the question made no mention of laws already in place that would dictate the legality of such correspondence. Sexually explicit photos of anyone under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and is illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It’s not clear how many people received the bizarre survey from Facebook or how they replied — the answers provided to the questionnaire were likely for company use and won’t be released publicly.

What is clear is that Facebook regrets the decision to produce the survey. In a tweet, Facebook’s Vice President of Product, Guy Rosen, called the survey “a mistake” and said it shouldn’t have asked for community opinions on child pornography.

"We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies. But this kind of activity is and will always be completely unacceptable on [Facebook]," Rosen wrote. "We regularly work with authorities if identified. It shouldn't have been part of this survey. That was a mistake."

The company later released a full statement regarding the situation:

“We understand this survey refers to offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook and that we have no intention of allowing so have stopped the survey. We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days; we have no intention of changing this and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice.”

A 2014 study found that 94 percent of people believe pedophilia poses a danger to children and 83 percent believe it poses a danger to adolescents. Eighty-four percent of people surveyed said they felt angry when they think of pedophiles, while 59 percent feel afraid and 40 percent feel pity.

Just five percent of those surveyed would be willing to accept a person who is sexually interested in children as a friend and 49 percent believe such a person should be incarcerated.