Facebook ain’t so safe for the tater tots!
Facebook falsely advertises the safety of its social network and fails to respond to complaints about obscene content and sexual predators in a timely manner, says the New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s office has launched an investigation into Facebook, charging that the site is rife with “widespread” pornographic content and that minors are easily and regularly contacted by adults trolling for sex. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has sent a letter (PDF) to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg detailing its complaints, along with a subpoena for company documents.
“My office is concerned that Facebook’s promise of a safe web site is not consistent with its performance in policing its site and responding to complaints,” Cuomo said in a statement issued yesterday. “Parents have a right to know what their children will encounter on a web site that is aggressively marketed as safe.”
The OAG launched a preliminary review of Facebook over the past several weeks by posing as underage users between the ages of 12 and 14, and discovered”deficiencies that stand in contrast to the reassuring statements made on the web site and by company officials.” Specifically, the OAG’s undercover accounts were approached almost immediately by adults clearly looking for
something more than friendship, and the accounts continued to receive repeated
messages along the lines of “i’d love to get off on cam for you hun ;P” and “call me if u want to do sex with me [number deleted] ok.” The OAG says that several other undercover accounts received solicitations of a “more graphic nature” that it prefers not to repeat.
Minors also have no problem finding lewd and sometimes even pornographic images on the site, according to the OAG, with several Facebook groups actively encouraging members to participate. Users under 18 can join any of these groups—for example, the groups “Porn Star Trials” and “TPG Trailer Park Girls 1” actively recruit Facebook members to “try out” for porn films. There are also slightly less nefarious groups, such as “Best Wet T-shirt or best boobie pic contest,” and “*For girls that love to share naked pics*,” says the OAG.
But the crux of the complaint isn’t over the existence of the groups or sexual messages, it’s over Facebook’s (lack of) response to them. The OAG says that, when undercover investigators complained to Facebook about the messages and other obscene content on the site, site administrators outright ignored most of the complaints. In other cases, Facebook acknowledged the messages, but then proceeded to take no action. This appears to go in direct contrast to comments made by Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, in a recent article by the New York Times. Kelly is quoted in the article detailing Facebook’s protections for its under-18 users, saying that communication is limited to those who are affiliated with the minors’ networks (such as their schools). Kelly also said several times that Facebook responds “quickly” to complaints about inappropriate comments and obscene messages, which the OAG found to be blatantly untrue in most cases.
“The OAG is especially concerned these problems are not being adequately addressed and will worsen over time,” reads the letter sent to Facebook. The company cannot continue to represent itself as a “safe” social networking site while failing to respond to complaints, says the OAG. Included
with the letter is a subpoena, asking Facebook to provide all documentation relating to complaints it has received over inappropriate content, as well as any responses.
Facebook said in a statement, seen by IDG News Service, that it took the OAG’s complaints “very seriously” and that it would work with the office on safety matters. “We strive to uphold our high standards for privacy on Facebook and are constantly working on processes and technologies that will further improve safety and user control on the site,” said the company.
There’s really nothing to say here except:
a) talk/educate/learn about these places with your children;
b) don’t trust what you can’t control;
c) these situations will never really go away unless you find a way to confront through education & prevention with your own child;
d) facebook should sort itself out – if it’s true and they’re not responding to these claims as promptly as they should… then YIKES. Word on the street has it that Microsoft wants to buy facebook for big, big, BIG bucks. If that’s the case– Microsoft, you better get on that safety thing. Seriously.
But really… when I first read this, all I could think of was “well, duuuuuh” and “derrrr” and other such immature retorts. I like facebook. It feels more organized and structured than myspace (which is one giant advertisement now). But at the same time– kids over 16 are all hopped up on sexuality (thanks, MTV– god, I sound like my mom now) and they’re going to chase things they’re curious about. We can keep chasing them away and trying to steer the universal course of 16+ teens, but they’re going to keep finding ways to find their smut (no matter how good they are, and how embarrassed they get if they’re caught). It’s a shame there are so many p-verts out there trying to exploit the teens, and how many uneducated teens there are jumping into the exploitation like an after school swimming pool party. It reminds me of Newport Harbor on MTV and how quickly those kids will stripe into their tiny bikinis and talk about “hot tubbing” like it’s the new code word for make-out sessions (or worse)– and how many of the p-verts with problems are watching these shows and getting the encouragement to intereact with the teens online. Oh, tangents… anyway– parents & teens alike just need constant education about the intricacys of online safety & WHY they need to be safe & WHO might be collecting info on them & WHAT might happen if they speak to some of these jerks contacting them on facebook.
Clearly the problem won’t really go away, we just have to find a better way to prevent and protect and educate.
So I may use my immature retorts of “duh” and “der”, but when it comes down to it– these reports, these articles, these warnings have to keep coming– because clearly we’ve not shouted enough about this for everyone to catch on… or perhaps they only thought it was in regards to myspace.
Well, ladies and gentlement… its not just myspace, or facebook– it’s all of them. Social Networks = open playground for all types of interaction. And no matter how we try to block problems, the problems will come in like wolves in sheeps clothing. Once again– don’t trust ANYTHING you can’t control. And even then, carry some caution!
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