Facebook vows zero tolerance as sick trolls urge teens to 'do a Ciara'
FACEBOOK has vowed to show "zero tolerance" to anyone who posts abusive content, citing the tragic deaths of Irish teens Erin Gallagher (13) and Ciara Pugsley (15) as the company's motivation.
The warning came as teens attending a major cyber-bullying conference claimed that sick online trolls are now posting abusive messages urging youngsters to "do a Ciara" or "do an Erin".
Both girls took their own lives last year, amid a worrying spate of teen suicides linked to cyberbullying.
Facebook, the world's largest social media site with over one billion members, stressed that while there is no easy solution to bullying, steps can be taken by online users, teachers, regulatory bodies and the industry itself to tackle online abuse.
"We will have zero tolerance for those kind of comments. That would classify as cyberbullying and an attack on a private individual.
"We would encourage them to report those kind of comments. In cases like that we will most likely remove the accounts," Facebook European safety director Patricia Cartes told the Irish Independent.
Facebook also confirmed that it has been in contact with the website at the centre of the Gallagher and Pugsley tragedies, Ask.fm, amid indications that some users post comments from Ask.fm on to their own pages.
The social media giant stressed that it does not allow anonymous use and, once a user has their account suspended, they are effectively barred from Facebook on a permanent basis.
Facebook has over one billion members and, on a single day, can receive over 100,000 member contacts including complaints about content such as bullying and abusive material.
The site offers 24 hour complaint action and said it strives to offer a 24 hour response period.
"What I can certainly say is that 100pc of those (complaint) reports are looked into.
"We are on 100pc coverage and we highly prioritise reports involving minors and cyber-bullying," she said.
"We would also investigate if any (abusive) content is linked to bad networks because that is usually how it works. We try to get to the root of the problem not just the one account that has been mentioned," she added.
Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly, who organised the Cork conference, said that the EU and national governments need to take urgent steps to protect vulnerable youngsters.
He will propose special e-identity measures, social media education in all schools from primary level upwards, and greater crackdowns on website providers that flout regulations.
The conference was organised after the cyber-bullying related deaths of three teens in Donegal and Leitrim, and the decision by junior minister Shane McEntee to take his own life last December.
Last week, the Irish Independent revealed that a 16-year-old Cork teen was also targeted in a vile campaign of abuse.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, also closed his Twitter account after what he described as "depressing" attacks by anonymous internet 'trolls'. Last year's tragedies followed the cases of Cork schoolgirl Leanne Wolfe (18) and Clare teen Phoebe Prince (15).
Leanne Wolfe took her own life in 2007 after being subjected to years of vicious bullying – including vile abuse over her mobile phone – Phoebe Prince took her own life in 2010 in the US after a similar experience.