Blaise Tapp: Facing the facts on social media's perils

For years I avoided signing up to Facebook, my main objection being that I was too busy to learn what my neighbour was having for breakfast and why the pasty faced lass in the canteen had been crying into the sausage curry.

Monday, 15th February 2016, 9:31 am
Updated Monday, 15th February 2016, 9:35 am

But I gave in to pressure and joined the party late, largely because it was the cheapest way to keep up with loved ones and how else would the world know how jolly happy I was with my lot? As my six-year-old so succinctly put it; “Daddy, I have worked out what Facebook is for, it’s for showing off.”

Sadly I am one of those folk who is wedded to his handheld device, gripped by a fear that I might miss a tantalising titbit from someone I have not seen since the days I wore 36 inch jeans.Facebook is the number one social media platform, with more than 1.5 billion users, meaning that if it were a religion it would be the world’s third largest behind Christianity and Islam. Undoubtedly social media has changed the world and is a source of so much good even though some argue it is eroding family life and that it is damaging industries such as mine, although I think to put the much publicised travails of the printed news solely on the shoulders of social media is misguided to say the least.

But is Facebook too big? Can it possibly know what is going on in every nook and cranny of its network? The latest evidence suggests not as, according to a BBC investigation they have uncovered paedophiles who brazenly indulge their vile shared interest through groups hosted by Facebook.

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It goes without saying that Facebook has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to perverts but journalists behind the latest investigation claimed that despite flagging up the images via the platform’s own reporting facilities, staff at the social media giant responded that they did not breach their ‘community standards’. While no reasonable person would suggest that Facebook is turning a blind eye it does appear that it suffers from the affliction which dogs many large organisations: inconsistency with maybe just a hint of complacency. We have all read the diatribes from mums and dads who have had their posts removed because they featured a photograph of their naked offspring at bath time.

For the second time in a week – the first following a Newsround probe into children below the permitted age of 13 using the site – Facebook declined an interview with BBC after its journalists presented it with their evidence. Such refusals are bad practice because viewers want to hear both sides of any story and will make up their own minds if one party doesn’t play ball.

The people at Facebook are very clever but not infallible and must surely know by now that paedophiles will stop at nothing to get their fix and will strive to stay one step ahead. They spend their days scheming and the public relies on the authorities and legitimate organisations to be wise to that. If it wants to become one of the world’s great institutions then it needs to start behaving like one.