Sticks, stones and Facebook
Facebook is a website used by millions of people. It helps people keep in touch. You can also find people who have the same interests as you. But some people post things on Facebook that upset people with a disability. People can report things that upset them. But it can take time for Facebook to remove them from the site. The Prime Minister is thinking about employing a person who can help Australians who use the internet. People would be able to get help to try to remove things on the internet that upset them.
Posted by: Joanne Richie, on 17/03/10
Some people post things on Facebook that upset people with a disability
Social networking websites like Facebook are increasingly popular. They are widely used for a variety of reasons. They can be fantastic for bringing people together who share common interests. But they can also be forums for prejudice and discrimination against other people.
Recently a Facebook group called for children with Down syndrome to be used for target practice. The group started in Italy and quickly had over 1700 members. The story was reported on other websites around the world. It was condemned by politicians, people with a disability, and their advocates. The Italian police tried to find the people responsible.
The Down Syndrome Association of Victoria also denounced the group. The organisation said it understood that many people would laugh it off as a joke. But it said the group’s actions reinforced prejudice and negative attitudes that make the lives of people with Down syndrome harder.
Tom Shakespeare, a contributor to the BBC website Ouch and campaigner for disability rights, also has concerns about Facebook. In a column published last year, Shakespeare demonstrated the extent of discrimination against people of short stature on Facebook. He found more than 500 Facebook groups that featured the words “dwarf” or “midget”.
Should Facebook take responsibility?
There have been other much-publicised incidents where people have posted inappropriate material on Facebook over the past few months. People are now asking if Facebook should take responsibility for all the content on the website. But is this possible? A search of the term “groups” on Facebook yields 464,000 results! There are more than three million active pages on Facebook. It is difficult to conceive how content could be screened before it is posted.
Facebook says it promotes openness and transparency.
We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others, a spokesperson says. The company believes Facebook can help create greater understanding and connection.
Facebook has 10 principles it operates under. The website also has a lengthy list of the rights and responsibilities of every user.
Users on Facebook must agree that they:
- Will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user
- Will not post content that is hateful or threatening
- Will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious or discriminatory.
there is no place for hateful or discriminatory content on Facebook.
Facebook says it removes content
as swiftly as possible.
The professional reviewers on our team take quick action to respond to reports, remove the content, and either warn or disable the accounts of those responsible. But some people are concerned that action is not taken quickly enough.
Assisting Australians who are offended
The Prime Minister recently indicated that the Federal Government would consider the appointment of an online ombudsman. The ombudsman would assist Australians who are offended or distressed by online material.
The role of the ombudsman would not be to monitor and censor content on the internet. Instead, the ombudsman would provide an avenue for people who are not satisfied with how a website responds to their concerns. The ombudsman would advocate on the individuals behalf. If there is a major issue they could also act on behalf of the government.
Another possible solution to improving online behaviour is education. Professor Matthew Warren from Deakin University wants ethical online behaviour taught to young people at school. Currently the subject is only taught at university.
Have you ever seen anything on Facebook or other social networking websites that offended you? Did you try to do anything about it? What happened? Let us know in the comments section below.
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