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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.