Know what's really great about Facebook and Instagram?
In case you have no idea what this is all about, on Aug. 18, some undoubtedly intoxicated teens engaged in public oral sex at an Eminem concert. Photos were taken, shared and posted within minutes. At least two guys were instantly heralded across the web as heroes (literally), but the 17-year-old girl involved met an entirely different fate: within minutes she was globally famous as #slanegirl.
Twitter, tumblr and Google erupted with photos. At lightning speed she was named, shamed, then hospitalized and sedated. So much for equality.
But kudos have to go to Facebook and Instagram here. Not only was the girl's personal page removed, but Facebook Graph returns no searches for slanegirl. At least one person, and probably many others, created abusive slanegirl Facebook pages, but they were removed almost instantly. The most infamously abusive "controversial humour" pages are devoid of references to the incident or the girl involved. If photos are posted within the site (and they probably are somewhere) they're well buried.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, is blocking the photos and deleting accounts of those who shared them.
Way to go, Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter, Google and the others could take a page out of Facebook. Twitter took some action, blocking the photos and temporarily suspending the accounts of some (but not all) of those who posted or RT'd them, or who named and identified the young girl. But the hashtag is still up.
All the major search engines still return the offending images.
In cases like this Twitter could intervene to suspend targeted hateful hashtags and discipline abusive accounts with lengthy suspensions. The company responded last month to calls for reform after a barrage of Twitter rape and death threats rained down on UK feminists, agreeing to intervene when users threaten others. But more is needed.
When minors are targeted and identified by online swarms, search engines and social media platforms need to intervene swiftly and halt the abuse. Suspending accounts sends a strong message to abusers to think twice about content they post. And all platforms can do more by suspending and blacklisting users who share devastating content.
Mobile providers have a role here as well, establishing guidelines for photographing or sharing images of minors. The most despicable person in this whole mess is the one behind the smartphone who took and shared the appalling images. For more information on industry responsibility, visit http://www.redhoodproject.com/
Industry enforcement of it own rules is one of our most powerful tools for creating a positive and respectful social media culture.
This time, Facebook and Instagram showed the way.