Facebook attacked for ‘safe haven of harassment’ in thousands of cyber-bullying cases
09 May 2017
Facebook is facing fresh accusations of failing to protect users after police forces across the UK had to step in to nearly 20,000 recorded cyber-bullying cases last year.
The platform is said to be providing a “safe haven for those who harass others” with almost a third of those incidents – 6,300 – involving the social media giant, new figures have revealed.
Its closest online rival, Twitter, accounted for just 0.9 per cent of the 19,320 cases — despite having a market share of five per cent of social media use in Britain.
The research, compiled by think-tank Parliament Street, found Britons are 36 times more likely to be harassed on Facebook compared to any other social media site, prompting renewed fears the site is not getting to grips with the issue.
The Westminster-based campaigners used Freedom of Information requests to all of the UK’s forces.
Their findings revealed evidence of sexual abuse, disclosure of revenge pornography aimed to blackmail or defraud and online bullying campaigns.
A damning 1,730 of 1,774 online harassment cases reported to Greater Manchester Police in 2016 involved Facebook while 708 of 772 cases in Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s region cited abuse of Facebook, and 671 of 889 cases reported to Durham Constabulary involved the network.
Parliament Street’s chief operating officer Clare Ambrosino – who exposed the figures – said: “Facebook is still not doing enough to protect its users from cyber-bullying and needs to step up its game.”
She added: “Facebook is the favoured media for the very young and it is fundamental that they are kept safe.”
Mike Rouse, director at Beagle Proactive Digital Consulting, added: “This research shows that beneath the surface of Facebook lurks rampant criminality – we saw it in recent weeks when Facebook was exposed for failing to act on child pornography, and now we see it again as the platform is exposed as providing a safe haven for those who harass others.”
He added: “Facebook needs to give victims and agencies the right kind of tools to help fight these evils. A reporting button is no good when those who receive the reports all too often do nothing.”
Meanwhile, Facebook is stepping up its attempts to build influence as a political tool by hiring former Tory and Labour political aides to target voters in the run-up to next month’s general election.
Facebook recruits include a former Downing Street adviser to David Cameron, a former aide to ex-Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and a social media expert who worked with the Tories’ election strategist Lynton Crosby.
It is seen as a key tool, given the amount of data that is collected by the platform about its users. There are an estimated 31 million Facebook users in the UK. Political parties have huge lists of email addresses, telephone numbers and Facebook IDs, and can target users with tailored messages.
The Tories spent £1.2 million on Facebook advertising in the run-up to the 2015 general election, and Labour spent just over £16,000, according to Electoral Commission figures.
Campaign strategists for both US President Donald Trump and the Leave.EU campaign have said reaching voters via Facebook is pivotal to election success.
The Electoral Commission is investigating whether Leave.EU failed to declare spending or support from Cambridge Analytica, a Washington-based company that claims to be able to use psychometric profiling based on social media activity to target voters. Leave.EU denies any wrongdoing.
The social network has also taken to print in a move to prevent the spread of ‘fake news’ ahead of the June 8 election.
Advertisements, taken out in leading national newspapers, contain Facebook’s iconic logo beside the title ‘Tips for spotting false news’.
The advice offered is the same as that shared online by Facebook, asking readers to examine more closely what it is they’re reading to ensure it is genuine. Fact-checking organisations will also work with Facebook to analyse news related to the general election.