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Is Facebook Doing Enough about Pervs?



I know, you were all shocked last month when I had to break the news to you that there were perverts on the Internet—even on the hallowed (and supposedly fenced-in) “grounds” of Facebook. I’m sure you’re just now recovering from the shock, so I hate to have to do this to you again, but: there are still perverts on Facebook. Yes, nearly six weeks after we first brought this to the general public’s attention, Facebook hasn’t done anything to the nasty people using their network for nefarious purposes.

Okay, okay, </tongue in cheek>. That was my initial reaction when I saw the headlines today: New York Attorney General Investigating Perverts on Facebook, etc. But looking deeper, this story shouldn’t be dismissed as overcautious fuddy-duddyism.

The New York Attorney General isn’t just randomly accusing Facebook of hosting perverts; they’ve done an “undercover” (I don’t think it counts if you’re online, does it?) investigation of Facebook and its safety and privacy measures. They set up profiles for young teens and waited for the illicit material to pour in.

And pour it did. To my recollection, I’ve never seen this type of message on Facebook, and certainly haven’t received any, but the fake profiles in this investigation received graphic solicitations (which are illegal, at least in New York).

But worse, when the users complained to Facebook about the lewd messages, there was no response:

When undercover OAG investigators lodged complaints with Facebook regarding the inappropriate – and illegal – solicitation of the underage users, Facebook in many instances ignored the complaints and took no action against the reported sexual predators. The OAG made these complaints to Facebook posing both as underage users as well as parents of underage users.

OAG investigators also lodged several complaints with Facebook about inappropriate content or communications on the website. In response, Facebook took down many inappropriate images within a week of receiving our complaints. On the other hand, other complaints reporting user groups that hosted hardcore pornography were ignored by Facebook, and the content remains available to all users – including underage users – to this day.

Perhaps most alarmingly, Facebook ignored several – and repeated – complaints from our undercover investigators concerning persons who made inappropriate sexual advances to underage users. For instance, on August 30, an OAG investigator created a profile for a fourteen-year-old female high school student from New York. Approximately a week later, she received a Facebook message from a 24 year old man, asking “do you have any nude pics?” The investigator lodged a complaint with Facebook as the student’s mother complaining that her daughter was being solicited by older men. The next day, Facebook sent a response saying that Facebook “will review the reported material and remove anything that violates our Terms of Use.” To date, however, Facebook has taken no further action, and the 24-year old’s profile is still available on the Facebook site.

The New York Attorney General has now subpoenaed Facebook for records of similar complaints (presumably not made by 30-somethings posing as teenagers).

Obviously, privacy is a serious, key issue to Facebook. The ability to control who has access to your personal information has long been part of its appeal (even if users can be indiscriminate in giving strangers that information). But are they really taking it seriously enough?

Lately, Facebook has seemed to roll back some of its privacy measures. At the beginning of the month, they announced that personal profiles would appear in search engine results (unless you opted out). After Lisa Barone started seeing information from her Facebook profile in Bloglines yesterday, Danny Sullivan took a closer look at how private Facebook’s notification feeds really are.

Privacy was Facebook’s USP. Perhaps as they’ve become more involved in their platform, other concerns have become more salient. But if the Attorney General’s prosecution is unsuccessful, hopefully there will be one positive outcome: we’ll have lost our false sense of security on Facebook.

(via)

  • http://www.trebtulare.com/real-estate/visalia-ca/ Visalia Homes for Sale

    I’ve held off making a profile on Facebook for this very reason. Thanks for the information…I think I may wait a while until this is sortd.

  • http://www.wordhugger.com Word Hugger

    Why do people accept these people as friends anyway? I get 1-2 invites per month that I don’t know, and I just decline them. Why do people expect Facebook to find a solution to peoples stupidity, as sad as that may sound…?

  • http://www.wizcodersolution.com Bob

    This happen on every social networking sites but facebook is a lot more control than others.

  • http://blog.surehits.com Jon Kelly

    I have had a profile up for over a year and have done very little to limit who sees it. And yet, not a single perv has poked me. I guess I need a more attractive picture. ;-)

  • http://www.u-g-h.com Owen Cutajar

    The problem with FaceBook at the moment is that I don’t believe they have scaled their organisation to handle the requirements of a social network of the size they are managing.

    It’s one of these cases where you send them an email and it gets assigned to a big black hole somewhere that nobody every monitors.

    Babysitting people takes time, money and people. Are we saying the Facebook is responsible for the actions of everyone in the network?

  • http://www.audiomecca.com/music-software/ Music Software

    This is atrocious. I have knowledge of the personal experience of a parent whose child was attracted to a pervert, not however on FaceBook. Quite what the child and her parents went through is not something that I would wish on my worst foe. That they are not scaled up enough to handle this is no excuse. Yes, I for one am saying that FaceBook must be held responsible for protecting possible children visitors and any other unsavoury developments. If they can not handle this, they should simply close down.

  • http://www.evdenevenakliyatt.net evden eve nakliyat

    The problem with FaceBook at the moment is that I don’t believe they have scaled their organisation to handle the requirements of a social network of the size they are managing.

    It’s one of these cases where you send them an email and it gets assigned to a big black hole somewhere that nobody every monitors.

    Babysitting people takes time, money and people. Are we saying the Facebook is responsible for the actions of everyone in the network?

    yes me too..

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Owen—Of course they’re not responsible for the actions of everyone in the network, but they are responsible for enforcing their ToS in compliance with the law.

  • http://www.watersubject.com Water Portal

    unless you are celebrity or famous for some reason you should accept this invites. myspace is full of this crap and thats why i once signed up and left after a week forever.
    i love facebook because i found most of my friends on it (i am a student, that may be the reason) and till today i never faced any sort of crap there. (not counting the stupid apps:)

  • http://www.soloseo.com Aaron R. Stewart

    Jordan:

    As always, an excellent post. I find it hard to beleive Facebook cannot do a better job at policing their site for certain elicit “tag words’ which should be flagged, and quarantined until they can be reviewed. We have consulted for companies which police their distributor sites to make sure they do not make outrageous claims about the products they resell. Claims which could get them sued or fined by the FDA.

    Facebook’s lack of interest in getting rid of the garbage doesn’t have to do with whether they have the tools to do it or not, it just isn’t that important to Facebook. Free speech doesn’t mean there are not limits to what can be said, we all have responsibilities to watch ourselves. Facebook had a responsibility to protect kids from garbage on their site, period.

  • JS

    There are pervs on facebook, lesbians and gays its bad coz these amazing looking lesbian girls are taking all the good looking gurls and not leaving any for the boys.
    Im serious i dont like gays nor porn they are corrupting the west and beyond, porn and lewdness should be outlawed its the only way to protect are sisters and kids from the bad peeps on the net.

  • http://www.ak-kelebek.com nakliyat

    Why do people accept these people as friends anyway? I get 1-2 invites per month that I don’t know, and I just decline them. Why do people expect Facebook to find a solution to peoples stupidity, as sad as that may sound…?

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    “I get 1-2 invites per month” it is very funny I knew you an you are lying.

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  • http://www.moviedisney.com/ Disney Movie

    Facebook’s lack of interest in getting rid of the garbage doesn’t have to do with whether they have the tools to do it or not, it just isn’t that important to Facebook. Free speech doesn’t mean there are not limits to what can be said, we all have responsibilities to watch ourselves. Facebook had a responsibility to protect kids from garbage on their site, period.

    Disney Movie’s last blog post..Disney brand takes over Chinese Ice Festival

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    love facebook because i found most of my friends on it

  • http://www.antalyatranseksuel.com transeksuel

    It’s one of these cases where you send them an email and it gets assigned to a big black hole somewhere that nobody every monitors.

  • http://www.disneypictures.net Disney pictures

    Babysitting people takes time, money and people. Are we saying the Facebook is responsible for the actions of everyone in the network?

    Disney pictures’s last blog post..free bedtime storie capture

  • http://www.onlinesinemaizle.net Sinema izle

    Of course they’re not responsible for the actions of everyone in the network,