Belfast Telegraph

Teen deserves praise for taking on Facebook

Editor's Viewpoint

The teenage girl from Northern Ireland who sued social media giant Facebook after a naked image of her was posted on a so-called shame page as a form of revenge porn is to be applauded for her determination to make the company take responsibility for the content on its site.

The case was settled on confidential terms, but Facebook has agreed to pay the girl's costs.

This is seen as a landmark challenge. Lawyers for the girl likened the posting of the image on a number of occasions to child abuse and claimed the image was blackmailed from her by a man who then posted it online.

The benefits of social media are well-known. It is a great way for people to keep in touch, make new friends or just share interests. But there is a dark side to it as well, as it can be abused by those with malevolent intent.

There have been a number of tragic cases where young people who have been blackmailed after sharing inappropriate images with others have gone on to take their own lives due to the shame they felt.

It is easy to say that parents should be aware of what their children are doing online, but that is impossible to monitor around the clock with the development of smart phones.

Companies like Facebook argue that the sheer volume of material posted online every minute of the day makes it impossible for it to prevent inappropriate postings, either images or text messages.

In this case, Facebook said it took down the offending image when notified about it, but it was reposted on a number of occasions between November 2014 and January 2016.

It is clear from the efforts being made by those hosting social media platforms to develop better monitoring tools, which would pick up offensive material quicker, that they feel at least some responsibility for what appears on their sites.

It would be wrong to put the entire onus on those who are the subject of vile postings to alert the platform hosts before any action is taken. After all, these are hugely wealthy companies worth billions of pounds and they have both the means and the expertise to exercise greater moderation of their platforms.

Perhaps this case and the prediction that many more victims of such postings may now take legal action will prove a watershed in the efforts to keep social media freer from the trolls and blackmailers whose bullying tactics can have such disastrous consequences.

Belfast Telegraph

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