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Facebook 'We're waging war on web bullies ... but need your help'

PARENTS, social networking sites and young people should all share the responsibility for keeping children safe on the net, according to Facebook.

Over the past week, the Herald has highlighted the role of the internet on the earlier sexualisation of Irish children.

Today, we reveal Facebook's opinion on the matter.

Part of the problem emphasised by our investigation was the huge number of girls and boys who are prepared to put up inappropriate material on Facebook -- and never think it's worth reporting.

In other words, they put themselves at risk without thinking twice about it, and for this reason, Facebook believes that while the organisation needs to promote internet safety, it "shares this responsibility with parents as well as children".

The organisation explained that like driving, young people should protect themselves and others by adopting the correct conduct. A spokesperson for the internet giant admitted that while measures were in place to prevent pre-teens from accessing the site, there is no way of checking the identity of new users.

Internet bullies will not come to the attention of Facebook watchdogs unless they are reported by other users, or if their suspicious behaviour triggers an automatic alert -- for example, if a new user who has few friends starts posting many messages on group boards. Nonetheless, the site insists that a link to report abuse is available on almost all of its pages.


"It is an unfortunate truth that a tiny minority of people exist who are intent on causing upset to others -- both online and offline," a Facebook spokesman told the Herald. "But while you can't report a conversation outside the train station or easily stop a person sending abusive, anonymous emails, Facebook has worked hard to develop reporting mechanisms that enable people to report offensive content they are concerned about."

A recent survey by the London School of Economics showed that nearly nine out of 10 Irish teenagers (86pc) use Facebook, and 35pc of Irish children between the ages of nine and 12 are also signed up to the site.

According to the site, this widespread use should help prevent teenagers from being inappropriate or cruel towards their peers because their behaviour could be reported, and their account removed, thereby alienating them from their group of friends.

"We have a real-name culture that encourages people to be who they really are and behave accordingly," it added.