Don’t get me wrong. I was not always an anti-Facebook crusader, but yesterday that all changed and I am now no friend of Facebook.
In my almost five years as a Facebooker I have felt little need to complain. I can’t say that I was ever the most prolific poster but equally I was no Facebook hater.
I simply used it as I needed, and it was good fun to message and chat with friends, keep in touch with family and view photos from events that I had not been able to attend.
Little did I know that Saturday night as I logged in to show a friend some photos, it was to be for the last time.
Distasteful weight loss ads started to appear in multiple locations on my news feed and my timeline had somehow become a pin-up location for an illustration of a grossly overweight female in a bikini lying below my timeline photo advertising weight loss secrets that I never asked to have shoved in my face.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, I scrolled down the page to discover that my previous posts where now littered with advertisements for gambling sites and dating services. To add insult to injury, at the bottom of the page I was confronted by an image of an overdeveloped and scantily dressed female inviting men to visit the site that she was advertising.
I was disgusted that these ads had appeared in the first place and infuriated that I was unable hide or delete them.
Unable to believe what I was seeing and I thinking my good old friend Facebook must have been hacked to be acting this way, I Google searched “Facebook complaints” to see if anyone else was experiencing the same thing. What I found was that people were experiencing things a thousand times worse than I was expecting.
The Daily Mail in the UK had posted a story just one hour previous to my own experience entitled “Fury as child abuse picture goes viral on Facebook with 16,000 ‘shares’ and 4,000 ‘likes’.” The disturbing clip that appeared in thousands of people newsfeeds on Thursday night showed a young girl apparently being abused by a grown man.
Facebook users immediately took to Twitter to vent their disgust and call for greater Facebook protection.
One angry Daily Mail reader wrote: “As if Facebook has a firewall that eliminates uploading of this type of video, and photo DNA .Don’t make me laugh! Facebook needs to deal with the content of its site better. It needs to police itself and not rely on its users to do the job that their so called ‘firewall’ and ‘photo DNA’ should be doing, as it obviously is not working. Facebook needs better reporting options so that users can alert Facebook to child abuse images and Facebook should then pass that info onto the relevant authorities instead of sweeping it under the table like they do[n’t] know.”
There was despair for the child in the video with one female reader who wrote “I hope this little girl is found.” Some referred to incident as evidence of the “sickness of social media,” while others testified that the best thing they had ever done was to deleted their Facebook account.
One reader, Daniel D, voiced an opinion shared by many: “I hope if somebody managed to get that sick video past Facebook security they also managed to fix the ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ numbers — if there were really 4000 likes and 16000 shares then this world is even sicker than I imagined!”
His comment also raises another issue, namely that Facebook accounts are being hacked more than ever.
Karen LL wrote: “There has been a Facebook hack going on at the moment where someone who’s on your friends list ‘apparently’ asks you to ‘friend’ them again. The hacker then takes over your account, changes your password, etc and uses your account. Two of my friends had this happen. You can’t get into your account. You can’t delete your account. The hacker controls your account. I wonder if this is how the porn got onto Facebook so fast???”
She wasn’t the only one. Dean from Texas wrote: “Most of those people probably did not like or share that filth. Hackers are using more complex virus programs that copy your friends list and spread these links using their info. This is one reason I quit Fakebook over one year ago.”
All this — coupled with the fact that my brother had just mentioned a notification from a friend that hackers have been accessing Facebook accounts and posting pornographic images that the account owner can’t see and will never know about unless one of their friends notifies them — had me thinking that between the UK, US and Australia these people all couldn’t be making it up. The recent UK incident would seem to validate their claims.
Another comment I picked up mentions a notion that I never considered when I joined Facebook as a teenager. Unelected Coalition wrote: “This is why I’ve never opened a Facebook account — they don’t take down illegal filth and I refuse to have anything to do with a company that has no ethics at all. Twitter does close accounts forever that try to promote filth. Boycott Facebook folks.”
Based on my own experience I have deleted my Facebook account in protest and disgust. Facebook may trade behind a façade of friends but they are by no means family friendly when they leave users unprotected from pornography and distasteful ad content, and sell users like a commodity to advertisers whose ads one may detest and yet be powerless to remove or change. Apparently when on Facebook turf people deserve no choice.
Helena Adeloju is an online journalist in Melbourne. She is also currently studying for a postgraduate Diploma of Arts in Bioethics.