May 29, 2010

Facebook Bullying: An Open Letter to Zuckerberg, Schrage & Goler

Regular readers know that I’m passionate about three key areas: leadership; learning & enterprise 2.0.

As a lifelong educator, married to one as well, and possessing a young brood already immersed in a 2.0 world, we strongly believe in raising our children to be collaborative, transparent, honest and innovative.

But, alas, I’ve recently developed petulance for one of the world’s finest creations … Facebook.

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg has arguably founded one of the most collaborative and people connecting applications in recent history. According to there are well over 450 million registered users worldwide. According to Google, Facebook now occupies the #1 visited website with 540 million unique visits in April, 2010 (after removing Google itself from the research).

Aside from the recent Facebook privacy flak, there is not a burning platform for Mr. Zuckerberg, Ms. Lori Goler (VP of Human Resources and Recruiting) and Mr. Elliot Schrage (VP of Global Communications, Marketing and Public Policy) to deal with, there is a raging inferno.

Bullying and Facebook.

It needs to be addressed … by Facebook.

With such a commanding head start as the platform in which people are sharing, collaborating and connecting, it is appalling (given countless examples) that Facebook does not take the stance to ensure its users (particularly those in the 10-18 year old range) are more educated and aware of cyber-bullying.

Recent examples involving Facebook & bullying, from 3 different countries include, but are not limited to:

A review of Facebook Principles makes no mention, whatsoever, of ethics or social expectations but it does state:

Achieving these principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms.

What, may I ask, is ‘evolving social norms’ and how can something that is evolving be the definition of your Facebook Principles?

There is, however, a “Defined Statement of Rights & Responsibilities” for which I applaud Section 3 (Safety) Subsection 6:

You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.

Frankly, both the Facebook Principles and Defined Statement of Rights & Responsibilities do not fit the task at hand. More must be done by Facebook to help the 10-18 year old age bracket be aware of the dire consequences of bullying, particularly cyber-bullying and particularly due to the fact Facebook has, more or less, become the de facto place for these assaults to occur.

Mark, Lori, Elliot … I implore you to get in front of this inferno. Do not leave it solely to local school boards, local governments or community/N-F-P organizations to fight the blaze.

Our kids do not yet possess the cognitive ability to distinguish social 2.0 norms in a 2.0 world; they need guidance, assistance, best practice and collaborative education to do so. Proven by Leslie Sabbagh with her piece entitled The Teen Brain, Hard at Work; (August/September 2006; Scientific American Mind), the prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas of the brain to mature. Thus, an immature prefrontal cortex is thought to be the explanation for why adolescents show poor judgment, an inability to think before they act, and as a consequence, bad decisions being made.

This phenomenon is all the more exacerbated in the Facebook era. This is why cyber-bullying on Facebook is occurring; we need to rethink the plan.

Steps to take, if I were Mark, Lori and Elliot:

  • Lead: get in front of this issue and begin leading – make it a part of the Facebook DNA
  • Educate: you not only have a collaborative platform, you have a learning platform. Begin educating your users specifically related to Facebook bullying, consequences, etc.
  • Collaborate: work with your millions of 10-18 year old users on the right strategies to implement

In the meantime, and until proven otherwise, my 7, 4 and 3 year old won’t be setting foot on the Facebook platform.

But Mark, Lori and Elliot, I offer my hand in assistance.

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