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KPBX’s Facebook page briefly linked to adult website

Tue., March 29, 2011

Spokane Public Radio station KPBX last week discovered that its Facebook page had attracted the wrong kind of friend.

In the middle of its spring pledge drive, station staff on Friday spent several hours scrambling to remove a Facebook link to a sexually explicit website using the name “Spokane public radio.”

The link to the porn site included a thumbnail-size image of a couple engaged in sexual activity. That link and photo appeared as the second result if someone searched on Facebook for “Spokane Public Radio.”

KPBX board Chairman J. Scott Miller may have been one of the first to see the offending material, around 9 a.m. on Friday. Unable to find a customer service number for Facebook, Miller  called station managers and asked them to remove the link, which apparently went to a New Zealand site.

Shelley Sharpe, KBPX marketing and public relations coordinator, said the station fielded no complaints from listeners or Facebook visitors about the problem.

By Friday afternoon KBPX staff had filed reports using a built-in complaint form on Facebook. The offending material disappeared Saturday morning, apparently the result of those complaints.

Sharpe said she heard of no other public radio stations facing the same problem.

Like many nonprofits and for-profit companies, KPBX uses Facebook as a tool to reach fans and listeners and offer a forum for feedback. Setting up a Facebook group page costs nothing.

Facebook typically blocks any attempt to create a link with X-rated content.

But Sharpe thinks there are some groups who are piggy-backing their way onto Facebook using existing accounts.

“We think they were able to call themselves that name by using lower-case letters,” Sharpe said. “My guess is that using that slight change in spelling, they were able to use someone else’s name.”

Sharpe can’t imagine why the porn site went to that effort; “maybe they’re trying to access our Facebook fans,” she said.

Calls to Facebook for clarification or an explanation of policies went unanswered.

“They do not contact you,” Sharpe said. “They don’t tell you who it was. They just take it down.”

Neesha Schrom, the station’s development assistant, was given the task of filling out the problem reports and sending them to Facebook. She said the reaction time by Facebook was quick enough, considering “the large number of reports they must be getting about problems” from users.

Her advice for anyone facing a similar problem: “Act fast. Facebook will help you, but you have to contact them. It won’t get fixed on its own.”

The incident doesn’t change the way the station will use Facebook, Sharpe said.

“You have to use Facebook today. It’s almost a must now if you’re a nonprofit or a business and want to network with people and have them interact with you.”

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