Few people realize that Facebook—and many other social websites—are monitoring conversations. That’s right; any private message or any post is being analyzed by company software for potential threats. What threats are social media techs looking for? Usually those of sexual predation.
Just recently, Facebook employees were alerted by the system that an inappropriate conversation of a sexual nature was taking place between a 13-year-old young woman and a 30-year-old male. The conversation concluded with both parties agreeing meet one another after the girl got out of middle school the following day. Alarmed, Facebook officials contacted police, who then arrested the man and confiscated the teenage girl’s computer.
This is not the first time Facebook has come through in a pinch and prevented a sexual attract, but for every 1 arrested predator, the company says approximately 10 slip through the patrolling cracks. While that might seem appalling to some people, Facebook has kept monitoring technology at a minimum to prevent outcry about privacy. Any more security boosts would mean that, instead of computers, real people would be needed to heavily scrutinize the enormous volume of conversations on the social site.
At the moment, Facebook’s set up attempts to eliminate conversations where an “established relationship” exists. So, if you’re having inappropriate conversations with your friends, the company won’t report you because you’ve likely been involved in just as many non-sexual conversations.
And even though Facebook and other companies are catching sexual deviants, most of the public seems uncomfortable with the thought someone is in tuned to private conversations. The skeptics of the system feel the issues does not lie with the number of sexual predators on social sites, but with the poor parental instruction which leads to young children feeling it is acceptable to meet up with strangers they’ve met online.
Instead of monitoring conversations, those who feel it’s not Facebook’s responsibility to police the Internet say arresting potential sexual offenders doesn’t do anything to solve the real issue at hand. Maybe Facebook should monitor minor’s conversations and alert parents if undesirable activity is going on—or is that too much of a breach of privacy?
Facebook security supporters say it can’t go both ways; you can’t have conversations monitored and ignore criminals when they surface. If you do, you end up in situations like popular Internet social gathering site Habbo Hotel, which shut down chat conversations after two teenagers were sexually assaulted by people they met on the website.
One journalist posing as an 11-year-old girl said she was immediately inundated with sexual requests and solicitation for her to strip on her webcam.
While the Internet is a scary domain, statistics still indicate more sexual assaults against children happen from people they know—family or friends of the family. And the Internet isn’t really the main region of concern when it comes to child safety. Experts say smart phones are far more dangerous, especially those with apps like “Skout,” which allow users to search for strangers near their GPS location with similar interests.