November 27, 2021

Facebook: Of good or of evil?

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lydia_faisalBy Lydia Faisal from Caribbean News Now

Back in 1998 I used ICQ for live chat with my family whilst I studied overseas and, at that time, Yahoo Mail replaced the post office. I was grateful for the technology; it was good enough for me; and then came Facebook.

Of course like thousands of others, in or about 2012, I would open a Facebook account (in my real name of course) add “known” friends and make new ones. Every morning, I would open my Facebook account and spend time looking for news, exchange greetings and send messages. Sometimes I found stuff that elevated my spirits and at other times I would find stuff that upset me or even spoilt my entire day.

All in all I found that I lost a lot of time being on Facebook and gained nothing substantial in the process. Eventually I closed my account. Whilst I miss chatting with friends, I am a lot more organized without the distraction of Facebook.

Having closed that door, I was quite shocked when sometime in 2013, I found out that despite my absence from the network for several months, that a photograph of mine previously my profile picture, was used in video that was circulated on Facebook accompanied by a caption that I was the person who wrote under a particular pseudonym; an assertion that was furthest from the truth.

Being absent from Facebook, I was unable to defend myself and the propaganda gathered momentum until someone made copies of the posts for my perusal. I was shocked at the comments made and the brazen attack and false accusations made against me. I was being crucified innocently in Facebook’s public square.

With the assistance of some good people and by virtue of much persistence, Facebook deleted the video and closed the account associated with the propaganda. But mine is a solitary story. Thousands of innocent people are daily crucified by users of Facebook who can find no better forum to vent their rage, wrath, jealousies, vindictiveness and evil intent.

However, not everyone has the resilience to travel the difficult journey to Facebook’s administration, who in my esteem, is unconcerned about the ills of the monster that they have created. Consequently, many a false, negative and defamatory comment remains hanging around the necks of victims impaled on the walls of Facebook.

What does Facebook do to ensure that its users open accounts with their real names and identities so that when they use that facility to permeate propaganda or to make threats of a criminal nature that they can be held personally accountable? Does Facebook care about the users who deliberately set up fake accounts with a mission to sully the reputations of others or generally to do mischief? What “real” recourse is there to the hundreds of people are who daily assailed by others through this medium? What is the position in the United States; is the content of public posts on Facebook closely monitored or are users free to write anything they wish? How many lawsuits have been successfully concluded against Facebook for facilitating the publication of defamatory material?

This is a post from the account of a 16-year-old who was having a quarrel with her boyfriend via Facebook on August 19, 2015. Apart from the low grade use of the English language, which makes the words almost unrecognizable, the young woman has condensed expletives into three-letter and five-letter vernaculars and is threatening to have her boyfriend killed:
“Yehh daa fone misspelled, but do I care? U used me den now u goin after love nd shut ur ass, u nvr loved me, u nvr wanted me to leave u, cuz u wanted to leave me in ymc, now I getting bad on you, I can jus make dem kidnap nd kill u and drop ur body in da swamps in Dennery, with 6 fuckin blocks on u, u don’t know who dafaq I deal with!”
Is there any mechanism for monitoring such far reaching communication and does Facebook ever intervene without a complaint even when a criminal threat has been made via that forum?

A solution to this problem already exists in Facebook’s terms of service but is routinely unenforced, namely, that every individual user should authenticate their identity and open accounts in their actual names rather than in pseudonyms. Secondly, the existing code of conduct must be obeyed and should be enforced by the swift closure of accounts. Thirdly, Facebook must afford users a more accessible ear to grievances and to more speedily remove offensive material and close offending accounts than it does at present. Fourthly, depending on the grievousness of the published material, the account should be closed even without a complaint being made.

As long as users are able to continue to use Facebook to hurt and damage others with impunity under the noses of its administrators, the view that Facebook facilitates decadence and confusion to a greater extent than it does peace and amity will no doubt remain.

IMAGE: lydia_faisal.jpg
Lydia Bertille Faisal is a practicing attorney at law in Saint Lucia. Prior to becoming a lawyer in 2002, she worked in the agricultural industry, first as an extension officer, teacher of agricultural science and with the Saint Lucia Development Bank as an agricultural credit officer

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