Irish News

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Facebook ignores call by principals for talks on cyber-bullies

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Published 06/05/2013|04:00

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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive

FACEBOOK has ignored a request for a meeting with Irish school principals to discuss the risks associated with the misuse of social networks by young people.

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Second-level principals sought discussions with the world's largest social network in light of growing problems with cyber-bullying.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) want to discuss specific issues, including what they see as a need for a schools' "hotline" to Facebook.

The principals' concerns also include a refusal to, or delay in taking down abusive posts and underage (under-13s) students setting up Facebook accounts. A letter from the principals was sent to Patricia Cartes, Facebook's public policy manager, and copied to Simon Milner, its director of policy for Ireland and the UK.

Facebook's reply sets out its approach to safety and cyberbullying, as well as arrangements in place for reporting any concerns. NAPD director Clive Byrne said the letter from Facebook was "generic" and ignored the request for a meeting.

He said this was "disappointing" and "surprising, since NAPD raised a very specific set of issues, and principals have the care of the country's schoolchildren in their hands".

Mr Byrne welcomed Facebook's commitment to what they call a "zero-tolerance approach to bullying" and said that it showed that it took seriously its responsibility to tackle cyber risk.

"But NAPD is concerned that the network is not prepared to deal directly with schools' requests to take down abusive posts promptly, or to provide dedicated liaison teams for schools and parents," he said.

Instead, Mr Byrne said Facebook believed it was adequate to involve third-party "partners", such as the Department of Education and its internet safety site, webwise.ie or hotline.ie, a service for reporting illegal content on the internet, in the reporting exercise.

He said "given the deeply hurtful nature of some online posts, and their sometimes tragic consequences, we believe that Facebook also had a duty to handle calls from schools, users and parents directly using dedicated liaison teams".

Concerns

Mr Byrne said Facebook should be more proactive in raising public awareness of cyberbullying, and advising on safe and responsible internet practice. The Irish Independent asked Facebook if it was willing to meet the principals to discuss their concerns. In an emailed response, it did not address this question.

"Nothing matters more to Facebook than the safety of our users. We'd like all teachers to know what to do about bullying online and we responded in full to this letter, once we received it. We are always open to opportunities to improve understanding, working with partners such as webwise.ie."

Irish Independent

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