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Unethical Facebook Groups and Pages Need to be Taken Down

Samantha Noble

by Samantha Noble on 23rd October 2012

Facebook was launched back in February 2004 and now attracts more than one billion active users. This means that a huge number of people and stories are added to the popular social network which have the ability to go viral very quickly. Yet this can cause a big problem.

I want to start off by telling you a short story, which is the reason I decided to write this post. It may sound a bit off topic to start with, but I think it sets the scene. A couple of weeks ago my dad (who is a barber) was sat bored at work, so he decided to take a load of pictures of various things around his barber shop and of the area outside too. His business partner was also doing the same and they came up with the idea of creating a silly video montage of all their photos. This took them a few days to complete and once they had it ready they decided to choose a song to play in the background to give it a bit of life. The song they chose was ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis.

The next morning they uploaded the video (along with the backing track) to Facebook and shared it with their friends, asking them to check it out. Now, within just five minutes of the video being uploaded, it was taken down. My dad got a message about copyright infringement with the reason being that they had used ‘Wonderwall’ without permission. I completely understand why Facebook need to monitor this type of activity and act on it quickly, but the reason I am writing this post is to highlight other areas that they should also be paying the same amount of attention to.

Over the past few years I have seen Facebook appear in the news on a number of occasions because they have not picked up on groups and pages that have been set up targeting various people and events. When you look at the Terms of Service on Facebook there is a clear section in there about the safety of using the site. I have pulled the section out and highlighted the areas that are highly relevant to this post and it makes me question even more why these malicious groups are able to gain so much traction.

Let me divulge on some of these groups in more detail. The below examples are just a few that have been brought to my attention over the past few weeks. Some of the examples are older than others and have since been taken down by Facebook. However, they still highlight the issue based on the sheer volume of fans these groups managed to gain before they were taken down.

The Murder of President Obama

There have been a number of groups targeting the death of President Barack Obama, one of which is still live and has more than 1 million members. Although a lot of the content has been taken down, the meaning behind the group is still visible.

The group has been featured on many blogs over the past year and there was even a group set up specifically to raise awareness of the malicious group to try and get it taken down which reached over 650,000 members! The Huffington Post summarises this story perfectly. Even though the group has been discussed all over the web, it is still very much in existence and has not been taken down.

The Murder of Prostitutes

I came across this article whilst researching points to add to this post and it really shocked me. There was a group that had been created called ‘Killing your hooker so you don’t have to pay for her’. The imagery on the group’s page was apparently very disturbing with one image showing a man choking a woman lying face down. The story surrounding this group has been covered on Care2. As with the Obama group, an opposing group was also set up to bring down the offending group. Both groups have since been removed from Facebook, but the group still managed to get to over 22,000 fans before it was taken down.

Child Pornography

Back in May 2012, the Daily Mail published a shocking report that shows child porn openly traded on Facebook which came off the back of an expose on WND.com. There were many profile pages and groups found in the expose that showed users interacting and discussing trading videos with each other. One page in particular showed multiple friend requests being accepted during a short time frame and the profile had managed to reach 84 friends in that period.

A spokesperson for Facebook told the Daily Mail that they have a piece of software in place that scans all images on the social network and flags child exploitative material which is a step in the right direction. Yet there must be more that can be done to stop this and take the pages down faster.

Praise for Raoul Moat

In July 2010, the BBC covered a story surrounding a Facebook group that had been set up entitled ‘RIP Rauol Moat You Legend’ by a 21 year old student. In this particular example, Facebook did not take the page down, it was the creator of the group that ended up removing the group after there was huge uproar across the UK. The BBC reported that a spokeswoman from Facebook said “Facebook did not remove the ‘RIP Raoul Moat you Legend’ page. Facebook will remove content that violates our terms when reported to us.” Although the main page in question is no longer live, there are still pages live on Facebook dedicated to praising Raoul Moat that are growing in their following. Before the main page was taken down it had attracted over 35,000 members.

False Death Claims/hoax

Last on my list of examples are the false death hoaxes which are becoming more and more frequent. The most recent hoaxes were for Morgan Freeman and Johnny Depp. Considering how many avid fans celebrities have, this kind of news plastered all over Facebook can be very upsetting for them and cause undue stress when the story isn’t even true. The crazy thing about these hoax pages is just how quickly they gain traction. The Morgan Freeman group reached over 500,000 likes within such a short space of time. Once the group had been revealed as a hoax, the number reduced to around 30 likes. Whilst researching the hoaxes, I searched for ‘Fake News Articles’ on Google and as you can see from the screenshot below, the two sites highlighted offer a service that allows users to create and share hoaxes.

In my opinion, although these sites were probably created to give people a tool to enable them to play a joke on friends, they are advocating these hoaxes, some of which could really spiral out of control.

Summary

When you take all the above examples into consideration, I think you would agree that Facebook need to do something about this issue. Going back to my original story at the start of this post, they are quick off the mark when it comes to knowing that video content has been uploaded containing music in the background. However, these examples stick around gaining traction for weeks until someone highlights it as being a problem. There must be something Facebook can do to monitor and take these pages and groups down. Surely knowing that a video infringes copyright is harder to monitor than pages of this nature, which can cause unnecessary upset. I would love to know your thoughts on this and any other examples you could add in the comments section below.

Samantha Noble

Samantha Noble

Samantha Noble is the Marketing Director at Koozai; having worked within the marketing industry for over nine years, Sam has a plethora of marketing knowledge. With a strong understanding of digital marketing techniques, Sam will be covering all aspects of search and the industry in general.

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6 Comments

  • Jim Seward 23rd October 2012

    Hey Sam

    Where as I agree that Facebook should be much faster in removing offensive content, especially as it can easily end up being shared with people who might find it upsetting, the death hoax one, I struggle with.

    Hoaxes like this have existed on the internet since the beginning, people shared them by email and things could go viral just as quickly as they can go that way now on facebook, it’s just much easier to see reach on facebook.

    I still get emails telling me that whoever has died when they’re very much alive and my personal favourite I’ve had:

    27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for………….

    Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.
    This will cultivate on Aug 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles off earth.
    Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am.
    It will look like the earth has 2 moons.

    The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

    Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

    These aren’t offensive, they’re not hurtful, but all they do is point out just how much of an idiot people are who share them without even thinking about it. Quite frankly, if Facebook wish to allow people to highlight their stupidity, who are we to argue

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 23rd October 2012

      I do agree with you when it is a silly hoax but some of them do get very personal and can offend people. The example you have given is very funny and it is amazing how quickly these sort of hoaxes are shared around.

      My dad has just read the post and since he uploaded the video, he is now banned from uploading any videos to Facebook!

      Reply to this comment

      • Jim Seward 23rd October 2012

        Now that’s just an over reaction on the part of facebook. I mean, where do they stop?

        There’s a video of me on facebook singing “Get me to the church” from the musical My Fair Lady, a work I believe still under copyright…should I be banned from posting videos to facebook?

        It’s here by the way if you want a good laugh:

        http://youtu.be/D2uluWp9t8I

        Actually, it’s probably out of tune enough to be different enough from the original for copyright not to apply ;-)

  • Steve Ollington 23rd October 2012

    It’s dodgy ground… the problem is where do you draw the line, at which point does does it encroach on free speech. I mean it’s obvious that those groups are sick and full of morons, but it’s a trajectory issue. The reasons we give to remove any group would be that we find them offensive, but people are all different and everyone find different stuff offensive. The recent video criticising the Prophet Muhammed, and the cartoons depicting him were found offensive by many Muslims. The argument there is that people have no right not to be offended, free speech is too important and once curbed even a minuscule amount sets it on a trajectory where laws become more interpretive, from libel laws to protections against corruption in government and so on.

    The argument against attacking free speech is, if you don’t like it, don’t watch/read/listen to it.

    However, where the line is drawn at the moment is if it incites/encourages hate, causes physical harm, mental distress beyond mere offence. It could easily be argued that some of the groups above do, but you have to tread very carefully before removing them if they may not or you open up Pandora’s Box with people who seek to use privacy laws for the wrong reasons. Copyright laws are much easier in that sense because the impact on society wouldn’t be affected by changes within it like it would with free speech laws.

    The thing is, it can’t be on rule for some and another rule for others… so if I want to be able to read Satanic Verses without others choosing for me whether I can read it or not, then I also have to put up with other’s who I consider as sick and twisted also having a choice in what they want to read no matter what that might be… as long as nobody actually gets hurt.

    One particular item above however, I’m sure you can imagine which, I think everyone would agree there is no case for allowing under any circumstances as it’s not just offence being caused, it’s a lot more than that.

    Reply to this comment

  • Iain 24th October 2012

    I think it is clear from your examples and many others that Facebook have no intention of policing this sort of thing in a proactive way.

    I adamantly believe that people have no right to be protected from things that offend them, on the basis that we are all different and are offended by different things. Some people are offended by the most stupidly insignificant things. Frankly, I don’t like to see censorship of things that are not illegal.

    Where I think Facebook does need to crack down is in weeding out the legions of under 12s with active accounts. My 9 year old niece and 8 year old nephew use the site and were apparently the last in their respective school classes to get accounts. This is directly in breach of Facebook’s terms of service, as I recall, and is to me a more egregious situation than the number of potentially offensive pages.

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 24th October 2012

      Hi Iain,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I understand what you are saying with regards to some of the pages and groups but do stick to my argument especially when it comes to pages that are geared around sharing child pornography videos and stories.

      The examples that I have given in this post are just a very small selection. In one post that I read previously, research conducted by WND found over 19 different Facebook groups and likable pages currently or previously available to the public all related to child pornography. The Huffington Post covers the story here – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/07/facebook-child-porn_n_1496530.html

      Your comment about your niece and nephews being on Facebook and other small children having an account is a big problem and with pages and groups dedicated to child porn, this is even more concerning. The owners of the groups have an ideal target audience if Facebook are allowing under age users, which is a bit worry.

      Facebook need to crack down on these offensive pages and ensure that their users are not in breach of their terms of service.

      Reply to this comment

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