Facebook fails yet another test

Facebook seems entirely unable to appreciate the impact it can have on people’s lives and the responsibility it has to minimise potential harm to its users.

The world’s most popular social media site has become a modern phenomenon and changed the way younger people, especially, interact with each other. Its influence on global lifestyles has been profound.

Yet, it has been the subject of several controversies relating to security and privacy issues that have left users with a sour taste in their mouths.

Regrettably it is the most vulnerable of Facebook users who do not properly appreciate the caution that should be exercised in disseminating personal material across the internet. They do not understand that material posted on social media sites is stored on servers for years and, potentially, decades.

And it is discoverable, regardless of whether items have been deleted or supposedly hidden behind privacy screens.

A new app is causing renewed concern. It is Facebook Poke which enables users to send each other photos and videos which supposedly ‘self-destruct’ after a few seconds. Posters can order deletion after one, three, five or ten seconds. A similar app proving just as popular is Snapchat.

However, recipients can take a screen shot of the sent imagery which can then be shared with the original sender entirely powerless to prevent it.

Sadly, many young things are using this new feature to send risqué – or worse – images of themselves to people they regard as friends but who, frequently enough, betray that trust.

Consequently, this new outbreak of sexting is going to cause a lot of drama for naive young people who will live to regret their bravado or romanticism at their leisure.

Counsellors and psychologists report a serious trend of vulnerable young women being pressured by boyfriends to take and share nude photos of themselves. They see these apps as a seductively simple entree to exploitation.

Facebook has damaged its own reputation by failing to clarify whether or not it stores Poke images on its servers and for how long these images might remain in Facebook’s control.

Just as businesses which serve alcohol are required to exercise a duty of care for their patrons – and are held to account by law – then so should Facebook be required to meet broad community standards in its administration of a tool now being used by one-sixth of the world’s population.