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OPINION: Dear Facebook, you are not what you used to be

Images by Andrew Harrer and Roman Martyniuk. Edited by Benjamin Ruiz.

Photo by Andrew Harrer, background by Roman Martyniuk. Edited by Benjamin Ruiz

Gone are the days when Facebook was a social network where we shared photos by the bucketload and wrote on someone’s wall just to say “hello”.

We used to babysit our virtual pet society and spend hours on our virtual farm in the game “Farmville” and how could we forget those endless quizzes we took to find out “who are you going to marry according to your sign”.

20 years have passed since the creation of this social network, which began in 2004 as a website for Harvard University students only.

Yes, you read that right, 20 years!

Now this social network has become an ecosystem of integrated applications where you can do many more things without leaving it, such as: sell, buy, live an experience in the metaverse, stream your online games and watch live videos, just to name a few.

To be honest, I only kept my Facebook account so that my older relatives could keep in touch with me and know a bit more about my everyday life.

Most of them are Baby Boomers and Generation Xers who discovered this social network a few years ago and are experiencing the joy of posting achievements, dinner outings and other events with others for them to like and comment on.

Were they late to this social network? Absolutely not, but they came to a different Facebook, a darker and more violent one.

The first time I read the term “harmful content” was around 2018, when I was working as a community manager for several small local businesses, and by spending too much time on this social network, I understood that much of what was published on this social network fell under this category.

Gradually, my Facebook video feed (which I used to watch more than YouTube) started suggesting videos that explicitly killed animals with no remorse, some videos were literally pornographic and had a significant number of reactions and likes.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the “Facebook algorithm” started suggesting videos in which minors were physically abused with a lot of violence.

It should be made clear that every one of these videos has been reported, but far from getting a clear response from the regulators, I have received belated messages that my request has been rejected for lack of information.

I wonder if the explicit content of these videos is not getting through some censors’ filter?

What’s more, the reporting process is slow, not intuitive and often the social network forces you to block the person showing the video, which doesn’t guarantee that they will remove it.

Although this social network is not the only one to suffer from this problem, the good news is that it is currently working to apply more and better regulations to this type of content.

Organisations such as the UK Safer Internet Centre are reaching out to the public to protect them from this content and make the internet a safer place for everyone.

Remember that it is up to us to identify, report and avoid this type of content for the sake of our mental health.

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