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Safe Social Networking for Kids on Facebook? No, but a Home for Pedophiles

| October 21, 2010 | Comments (0)
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1FBtop_397x224 As if the privacy concerns stemming from the WSJ report weren’t enough, FoxNews delved into Facebook’s safeguards only to stumble upon some extremely concerning content.  What exactly did they find?  Simply put, FoxNews found 100s of groups whose members were sharing child pornographic photos and other child exploitative materials between one another.  According to Facebook, this content should be automatically flagged by the content filters they have in place.  Technically, these filters are used to search for basic keywords that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) identifies as being associated with child exploitive material, but a quick search by FoxNews for terms like “Incest” or “PTHC”–which is short for “Pre-Teen Hard Core”–raise questions as to whether or not Facebook is doing all they can to keep these sickos off the site.

“Those filters, if they are properly employed, should flag much of the offensive material found on the site”, cybersecurity experts say.

A couple of weeks back, FoxNews had a 90-minute phone conversation with two Facebook executives—spokesman Simon Axten, and chief security officer, Joe Sullivan. During their call, FoxNews had the two Facebook reps search for “PTHC” in the sites search bar.  They were then instructed to click on the first group/page that came up in the search results.  “That’s when the executives came face-to-face with a post directing users to a video purportedly featuring an 8-year-old boy being sexually abused.”

Side note: Joe and I met at the Crimes Against Children Conference, which I spoke at. The Dallas Fox News team covered Yoursphere and talked about the safety measures we have in place for children.  As part of the interview, Joe spoke about what Facebook supposedly does to protect children.  In fact, I handed Joe my card and said, “I can help you. Contact me”. Not surprised that he hasn’t called yet.

Joe and Simon were further exposed to the sick culture behind these groups when they started clicking on the profiles of the 197 members.  They saw firsthand how Facebook was being used to promote and distribute child pornography, and as a way to interact with children.  Here’s what the FoxNews article had to say:

“At this point, there was silence for nearly a full minute, except for the sound of furious, rapid typing. Axten and Sullivan sounded stunned, unable to explain why this happened and how their filters could have failed.”

Though the content has since been removed, we can assume that Facebook came up with a list of excuses explaining why it was allowed to live on their site in the first place.  Sure, they have half a billion members on their site, but is that an excuse to NOT properly filter out all the pedophiles, whom most of which are probably registered sex offenders?  I say no, and I think Hemanshu Nigam, co-chairman of President Obama’s Online Safety Technology Work Group, would agree with me.

“The fact that Facebook missed the most basic terms in the terminology of child predators suggests that they’ve taken a checkbox approach instead of implementing real solutions to help real problems facing children online,” Nigam said.  “To not be focusing in on a word like ‘PTHC’ or ‘Incest’ means you’re not stopping the problem proactively.” I might add, that they could implement identity verification and run a sex offender check like we do at Yoursphere.

Parents, I think the lesson to be learned here is that Facebook is, and always will be, a social network that was created by and intended for adults.  If they want to continue this lackluster approach to keeping a safe online environment for our kids, then they obviously don’t care about their safety or privacy.  Half a billion members on your site is no excuse—Facebook should be prepared to handle the volume—whether that requires them to hire more people to monitor content, or improve their filtering technology, they need to get it done and get it done right.

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Category: Facebook

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