New Facebook Advisory Board Targets Online Dangers

Just days after news that it had helped identify and disable the accounts of more than 2,700 registered New York sex offenders, Facebook on Sunday announced that it has created an external advisory board on the topic of online safety.

The Facebook Safety Advisory Board comprises five leading Internet safety organizations from North America and Europe and will serve in a consultative capacity to the company on issues related to online safety.

Included in the new board are Common Sense Media,ConnectSafely,WiredSafety, Childnet International and The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).

‘A More Robust Safety Environment’

“We believe that the only way to keep kids safe online is for everyone who wants to protect them to work together,” said Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public policy at Facebook.

“The formation of a board to advise specifically on safety issues is a positive, innovative and collaborative step towards creating a more robust safety environment, and we are thrilled that such a well-respected, trusted group of organizations has joined us in this endeavor,” Schrage added.

In a related move, Facebook last week also overhauled its privacy controls to help protect users better.

First Steps

Facebook has consulted with external organizations for years on its safety practices, but it created the Safety Advisory Board as a way to formalize those relationships and to gather more feedback, it said.

The company may also add more members over time, it added.

Meanwhile, it will meet regularly with board members to review its existing safety resources, develop new materials and seek advice on safety best practices.

The board’s first task will be to oversee an overhaul of the safety content located in Facebook’s Help Center, the company said, with an eye toward creating a comprehensive resource with educational content for parents, teachers and teens.

‘Best Practices in Cyberspace’

“We’re thrilled” to be part of the board, Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety, told TechNewsWorld. “We’ve been advising Facebook since 2005, and we all know each other very well.”

Each of the groups involved will bring “a slightly different flavor to best practices in cyberspace,” she added.

It’s important that Facebook have “outside voices they can trust and share information with in a confidential way,” Aftab explained. “If you want to keep people safe, you’ve got to do it where they are.”

WiredSafety also runs safety-focused programs called Teenangels,Tweenangels, WiredKids,WiredMoms and StopCyberbullying.

Ongoing Efforts

Facebook, meanwhile, has increasingly had to take steps to try to ensure the safety of its users.

Last year, for example, it signed an agreement with 49 Attorneys General to help protect children from online predators.

Last month it worked with the BBC to promote its “Bullyproof” campaign to end cyberbullying.

Currently, the company is partnering with MTV on its “A Thin Line” campaign to prevent digital abuse.

An ‘Edgy’ Message

The new advisory board is a great development, Teri Schroeder, CEO of i-SAFE, told TechNewsWorld.

“It looks like they’ve really picked a great group to give them the tempo of what’s going on in the industry,” Schroeder explained. “All five organizations are looking at it from a different perspective.”

One step i-SAFE would like to see the advisory board take is to create a message for users of Facebook about their safety and responsibility, Schroeder said.

Specifically, an edgy public service announcement or 30-second video “could help them get their message across,” she noted.

‘It’s Time’

“The fact is, many kids are getting on by themselves, and many are not honest about their age,” Schroeder explained. “If there could be something edgy on the site that could empower them, that would help from a community perspective.”

Indeed, Facebook is now “one of the most popular sites in the world — and growing,” Aftab pointed out.

“When you have the entire world online on one network, you need to create a community approach to safety,” she added. “It’s time.”

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