A lot of flak has been flying in Facebook’s direction the past few days – and parents and those who take care of children will rightly have serious concerns. Protecting children from Facebook will become mandatory. The social networking site recently announced that ‘beheading’ videos
can now be displayed on its site, again.
A sigh of relief – no more beheadings on Facebook
It must surely come as a relief to parents and carers that Facebook has done a swift u-turn on its decision to allow beheading videos on the social network. It removed a beheading video that had previously been posted. Facebook says it has “re-examined” the issue and adds that it will strengthen its enforcement of policies on graphic content. This apparently includes removing posts which celebrate violence – which many beheading videos do – and also take into account whether they are being shared responsibly. The justification for Facebook’s original decision to permit the videos seemed a bit limp and not thought through very well. It claimed they could be posted as a way of condemning gruesome actions through people’s comments. In response just about the whole world and its dog threw up their hands in horror at the thought of young children being exposed to what are essentially barbarically gruesome video clips where someone loses their live in front of the camera in a brutal fashion. The protagonists are then often seen celebrating. Facebook has a fairly tight policy that bans content that is deemed disturbing, even a mother breastfeeding which made the initial ‘beheading’ approval seem extremely bizarre. But that said, graphic content does slip through sometimes and can certainly do the rounds on the social network before it is picked up. Still, let’s raise a glass to the common sense and sanity of Facebook’s u-turn.
Almost at the same time, Peter Davies, chief executive of the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
(CEOP), said that the grooming of children on social network sites such as Facebook has become ‘industrialised’. To justify its actions Facebook said it was permitting the display of beheading videos, because people would likely post them as an act of condemnation,expressing their disgust at such actions. What about Facebook protection for children? It’s an odd justification. The age limit for Facebook users is 13 and who would want children of this age to see such things? They are gory, brutal and sickening, even for adults. And the fact is children of a much younger age are also likely to be exposed. Despite the Facebook age limit, there are children below 13 who sign up to the social network. No doubt the arguments
about Facebook’s decision will swing back and forth for days to come. And surely someone, somewhere will mention that these videos can be extremely ‘popular’ in that they attract a lot of page hits. Some gain 1.5 million viewers and more. Taken with the comments from CEOP’s head honcho, parents and carers must be wondering whether it’s a wise to let children use Facebook and other social networks at all?
Why Facebook worries us when it comes to protecting our children
Davies was speaking to a group of British MPs
at a committee meeting. He said that while Facebook was a major platform for child abusers it was not the only one, though he added that half of all internet grooming took place on established social networks. He also threw out some compelling and chilling figures. In the UK alone there are 300 million child abuse images circulating and about 50,000 people who committed offences by possessing indecent images. We don’t know the figures for other European countries or the US but even a back of the envelope extrapolation of populations and internet users would surely send the numbers soaring. Davies was quick to point out that social network platform are not to blame but that they must be better managed.But these revelations must surely galvanize parents and carer’s needs to practice Facebook protection for the sake of children.
What can be done to protect kids from exposure to unsuited media content on Facebook?
At BullGuard we understand the nature of internet. It’s a fast moving beast that doesn’t stand still and we’ve been worked very hard, and continue to do so, to develop products that can safeguard children, even as the landscape constantly changes. We’ve developed an extensive and sophisticated technology
that among other things helps parents protect their children on Facebook. It identifies abusive content, whether its language or images, and flags this up to parents. It is also able to spot potential predators simply by identifying ‘new’ friends. From a parent’s perspective it’s easy to manage. They simply use a web-based dashboard to monitor their children’s Facebook accounts. It’s also discreet and non-intrusive. It’s also useful for children because it can flag up to them potentially ‘damaging’ links. We may think children are quite resilient but those who have inadvertently seen video ‘nasties’ whether its porn or violence speak of their shock and how badly it affected them, leading some to withdraw into themselves. Facebook claims that its move to display beheading videos is merely a move to update itself in line with other web sites. Let’s hope it doesn’t use the same rationale to start introducing pornography.