Are you guilty of peddling your child online, albeit unwittingly, or possibly apathy is to blame. Either way, most of us are complicit in exposing our children to the dangers of predators online. If you disagree, read on and leave a comment.
Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary has sent an open letter to Facebook voicing concerns over Facebook’s intention to offer its users end to end encryption on their communications.
I am an outspoken critic of the platform. It’s home to questionably the saddest collection of individuals to claim membership of the human race, but for now, we’ll leave that soapbox packed away. As the owner of WhatsApp, Facebook is no stranger to encryption. The decision to extend this mechanism to its sharing platform is both timely and worrying.
Is it possible that Facebook has become overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of trying to police the online conversations of half the free world? It’s a daunting task, make no mistake. Not only are they tasked with keeping an eye out for peadophiles, the list now extends to terrorists, extremists, racists, people traffickers, criminals and other undesirable political dissidents with outspoken views.
How much easier then to remove the current transparency and replace it with a closed system, visible only to the sender and recipient. Overnight systems put in place to filter millions of suspicious keywords and phrases become redundant and the onus shifts from Facebook to the users.
You cannot track and monitor something you cannot see. Naturally, governments and organisations are up in arms over this proposed move.
Head of online child safety at the NSPCC Tony Stower said: “It’s an absolute scandal that Facebook are actively choosing to provide offenders with a way to hide in the shadows on their platform, seamlessly able to target, groom and abuse children completely undetected.
There is a very important principal at play here, one that we ignore and cannot. Our rights to privacy have been eroded over the last twenty years, the Twin Towers incident acting as the push that started the slippery slide into a bottomless abyss of Big Brothers making.
Before I raise the war cry to rally the troops in protection of our civil liberties let’s have a quick look at the figures.
In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse content to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which the National Crime Agency estimates have led to more than 2,500 arrests and 3,000 children made safe.
That’s a lot of data provided by a company that is regularly accused of doing little to protect its users. The problem is clear in this instance, and does not lie with Facebook. Data is now available on an unprecedented scale and governments are ill equipped to deal with it. How many government agents are tasked with child protection, in particular, these types of complaints. I suspect if you divided the complaints by the number of agents, they’d get through the current pile by 2311, give or take a few weeks. New intelligent software systems are desperately needed to filter and sort through this insurmountable mound of potential abuse.
Facebook’s move seems logical, both from a business and privacy perspective. As to NSPCC Tony Stower’s complaint, I would raise the following points with him. Does he also demand unfettered access to all our telephone conversations? Is our mail, yes the old fashioned posted letter, now in jeopardy of being opened as a routine course of business and scanned by intelligent machine readers in search of key words.
There seem to be a few simple common sense solutions to all the concerns raised above.
Facebook is taking a huge step in the right direction. Users are entitled to privacy. If they are communicating about nefarious activities, that is their prerogative and if they choose Facebook, that is their choice. Police and government agents should focus on alternate methods of detection and not insist that we forfeit our right to privacy to make their lives easier.
As adults, we are able to police ourselves and when we choose not to, the law can and does intervene. Where children are involved,the matter becomes slightly more complicated. The solution though, is simple, elegant and without question, enforceable. It is not however pursued by governments and law enforcement agencies as it is counter productive to their true agenda, that of global access to my data and yours.
Parents have a responsibility to ensure their children are safe. Every child receives the “talking to strangers” and “accepting candy” lecture. Most parents only touch lightly on the dangers lurking online and for most children, social media represents the tastiest candy of all. The glaring question and the elephant in the room almost never gets addressed. Why?
Why are our children engrossed in this ridiculous fake world of social media? The answer is simple. It cannot be argued and we cannot escape blame. It is because we allow it. It is that simple. We condone our thirteen year old daughter posting pictures of her scantily clad or nude body online. We allow her to use her webcam to record a dancing routine that would be banned at most adult clubs. In case you missed it, WE ARE TO BLAME!
Not Facebook, not her peers, not some pervert sitting in a dirty motel room in another state, no sir. Sit up, wake up and take responsibility before it’s too late.
It is time for parents globally to petition all governments to raise the legal age of social media users to eighteen. It must and will become unlawful for any person under this age to own, participate in or create a social media account.
We protect our children, albeit with moderate success from the dangers of alcohol, smoking and under aged sex. When it comes to a tool that allows them to be bullied, sexually groomed, exploited and occasionally abducted, we simply choose to look the other way.
A valid ID or drivers license would offer a simple verifiable proof of age and if made a legal requirement would immediately exclude our children from a host of potentially exploitable sites and situations. You can argue that the system is not foolproof. I grant you that, but if it only saves one child from rape, murder or slavery, then it becomes worthwhile.
Pedophiles will always find a way to access children. Depraved does not mean stupid. The real definition of stupid is when YOU knowingly allow a situation to continue that could threaten your child’s life and mental health.
It’s time to #banourkids
I’ve included a few interesting graphs below and based on these figures in excess of 200 000 000 children under the age of 18 are active on Facebook.
I am setting up a platform for exactly this purpose, the link is below.
If you too have children and feel the need for action please support it. Those who don’t have children may also want to consider throwing their voices behind us to help curb the erosion of our civil liberties and privacy. Feel free to link or leave a comment below.