Facebook status: Unfriendly

Elizabeth Yore was special counsel to Harpo Inc., Oprah Winfrey’s production company. She also served as child protection counsel on a range of matters, including at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. Yore was general counsel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She served as the general counsel and director of the International Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. She consults on child protection issues with corporations, non profits and international child abuse cases and issues.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. -Albert Einstein

Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrived in New York for the record $10 billion IPO. The Facebook hype on Wall Street is tempered by an investigative report on WND.com, which uncovered countless child pornography images lurking in plain sight on Facebook.

The investigation found posted Facebook Groups with the following titles: Kidsex Young, Preteen Lesbians, 10-17 Teen Bisexual, PTHC (or preteen hard-core pornography), 12 to 13 Boy Sex, Young Gay Pics and Movie Trade, Gangbanging, Teen Sex, Love Little Kids, Incest Forever, Men or Baby girls, Sex Little Girls and Nude Teens. Even worse, WND.com also found several graphic child pornography photos posted of children being raped and sodomized on Facebook pages.  Child predators, who are users on Facebook, are sharing and trading these illegal photos on the site.

WND.com determined that Facebook is serving as a platform for child predators to post and trade child pornography. Despite PhotoDNA, the highly touted Microsoft filtering software, there is an alarming number of Facebook pages and groups that engage in trading and posting child abuse images. These illegal and vile images evaded the PhotoDNA filter. Not only are the victims in these photos being brutally violated, but each time these photos are traded and shared among pedophiles, the victims are re-victimized. When these photos go viral, the victim’s suffering is magnified exponentially by cyber trading. Tragically, child pornography images are growing more violent and involving younger and younger victims.

Predators search for children, and children are hanging out on Facebook. Twenty million children use Facebook. Users are required to be 13 years of age, although age verification is impossible. Consumer Reports uncovered in their “State of the Net” survey that 7.5 million Facebook users are younger than 13. Even more shocking, five million Facebook users are 10 years old and younger. Millions of Facebook users are at grave psychological harm if they stumble upon and view these violent images.  Even worse, millions of children are also unwittingly at risk to grooming, luring and molestation by these child predator roaming Facebook. Warning parents! This is no Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.

If children are at risk on the platform, the users will migrate elsewhere.

Here is the stark reality: Facebook does not have the resources to quickly intercept all illegal child abuse images, pages or predator groups. The network relies on users to monitor and report illegal content, with the backup of its PhotoDNA filter and other filters. Both approaches are flawed, creating security gaps on the platform and leaving children vulnerable to view, to be lured into and to participate in these groups. Facebook offers a report link so users can report inappropriate, offensive and dangerous content.

Community policing is woefully inadequate in the cyber world, as it is in the real world. While encouraging Facebook users to monitor and report child pornography and other inappropriate content may sound empowering, it’s like asking children to monitor the registered sex offenders in the neighborhood.

Facebook will soon announce the attainment of the quintessential goal of one billion users. However, the lightening speed growth of Facebook is now exposing its fault lines as it struggles to handle the complex world of 901 million users. 

The massive Facebook IPO could raise over $12 billion. Financial experts are calling it the largest global internet offering ever. With the shocking abuses exposed by WND, Facebook needs to commit its new influx of cash to develop technology to ensure a safe social media network for all its users, especially the children.  Let’s be clear, if a neighborhood is not safe because predators roam undetected, and flaunt their illegal activity, then families will move out. People leave in droves, when institutions don’t protect children.

Zuckerberg propounds that  “if we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on the most important problems.”

Mark, it’s time you focus on safety, and children.

One response to “Facebook status: Unfriendly

  1. Elizabeth,

    I am one of your co-bloggers. Thank you so much for bringing this issue to my attention. Would an email campaign be helpful? Seems to me that pressure on an issue as serious as this should be made. What can people do/write on their own FB pages to help the situation? Seems that an organization with FB’s resources can do anything. They’re not too busy: I saw that Zuckerberg got married days after he went public.

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