Today, Facebook unveiled Facebook.com/FBSafety, an official Page focusing on keeping users informed about issues regarding objectionable content, cyberbullying, privacy, and security. It acts as the publishing arm of the recently launched Safety Center, a knowledge base of answers to safety related questions — similar to other official pages including Security and Congress On Facebook, Facebook Safety is a likable Page which pushes stories to the news feeds of people who like it.
The demand for better safety information became more intense after the November rape and murder of a 17 year-old English girl by a 33 year-old sex offender posing as a teenage boy on Facebook. While that sort of crime can happen over any web site or other communication service, the focus was directed at what Facebook could do to prevent abuse. Britain’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) released an app, which when installed made it easier for children to contact the authorities to report predators. Providing knowledge that can prevent these kind of tragedies is crucial to Facebook’s continued growth amongst younger demographics whose parents can limit their access if they think the site is unsafe.
Since the Facebook Safety Page launched on July 18th, it has posted stories featuring links to research and statistics on cyberbullying, discussions of social media’s place in education, suicide prevention tips, and prompts to customize one’s privacy settings. The wall includes a box introducing the Facebook Safety Advisory Board, a set of internet safety organizations which exemplify the Page’s mission to “provide you with updates and information to keep you and your family safe while using Facebook or surfing on the Internet.” The Experts tab lists third-party sources of information from the SAB as well as FEMA, MTV’s A Thin Line project, ChildrenOnline.org, and various government agencies. The Video tab hosts tutorials and PSAs produced by Facebook and others that provide tips and points to discuss with loved ones.
The Page’s success will depend on it providing information targeted at all types of users. Currently, the Page primarily offers resources aimed at educators and parents, but it will need to include more kid-friendly content, as they are the most vulnerable. The “Cyberspace Rules of the Road” video from popular Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb is a good start. If Facebook Safety can distribute educational content that goes viral amongst children while providing adults with detailed information, it could help protect the site’s users.