The feature was spotted by Belgian security researcher Inti De Ceukelaire, whose findings led to further revelations that Facebook prompts its users to search for photos of female friends in bikinis.
“Facebook has modified their creepy hidden search feature this weekend,” he tweeted earlier this week. “You can no longer retrieve hidden photos from your male friends. Women can/may still be stalked.”
He continued: “Even more: When you request photos from your male friends, Facebook assumes that you wanted to see pictures of women.
Screen shots of the issue accompanied his tweets, prompting responses that Facebook is “sexist” due to the way its internal search feature functions.
Another Twitter user then noted how Facebook’s search bar automatically suggested photos of female friends in bikinis, whcih was confirmed in tests by The Independent.
“These are abusive search suggestions and should be addressed,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant progessor of communications at Syracuse University.
Facebook originally stated in a comment to media outlets that it was the result of “a bug” with its search function, however the social network issued a further clarification to explain it is not a glitch but simply how the search feature works.
Suggestions auto populate in the search bar based on popular and recent searches on Facebook, meaning enough people had searched for that term for it to appear as the top suggestion.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the tech giant is working to fix the issue but at the time of writing the controversial search suggestions were still appearing.
More about: Facebook