The biggest concern in the internet era affecting Facebook and other social media platforms is privacy and confidentiality violation. Facebook has become an integral part of people’s lives as a useful site for sharing ideas and communicating with friends, family, and other people worldwide. However, Facebook has become a tool for destructive and unethical practices by various people using the platform to carry out cyberbullying, stalking, criminal activities, among other immoral actions. Facebook addiction makes it difficult to abandon the site since it brings people closer despite the distance between them. Information shared on Facebook is often viewed by several users depending on the number of friends the sender has and the privacy settings that they have enabled for their accounts. Facebook is available for use for every individual who is at least 13 years old (Espejo 22). Research on social media concerning the permission it has created to insult, bully, and threaten others without fear of punishment, has shown that the cases of such activities entail the destructive effects without any consequences for an abuser.
Firstly, Facebook has been used as a tool to insult other users of the platform, which goes against the rules and regulations of the site. According to Tandoc, Ferrucci, and Duffy, Facebook was designed to foster communication among people worldwide. However, other users of Facebook have made it a tool for insulting each other (143). Facebook has made it easier for aggressors to send the insults to their victims since it works on a virtual platform, and all it requires is to have access to the internet and a computer or a smartphone. Others may argue that Facebook has been a revolutionary invention that has broken the communication barriers in the world among friends and family (Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport 423). The argument is that issues such as insults are done by just a few users who would have done the same to their victims in real the world if Facebook had not existed.
Despite the analogy, Facebook has contributed to such unethical behavior as the aggressors can hide behind fake profiles and fake names created on the site (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). The use of pictures, comments, and sharing features have been able to aggravate the situation of abuse as most of the posts on Facebook can be easily spread to many users just by a click of a button. In the event someone is insulted through the pictures or comments, the abuser posts the information in the victim’s account, and other users of Facebook who are friends with the victim can be able to see the insult and have the options to share, like, and comment on the insult. Such abuses affect the victims as they are damaging to their reputations and mental states. The magnitude of the insults is elevated when many users view the insult, and often the victims become depressed, and in worst-case scenarios contemplate suicide. Tandoc, Ferrucci, and Duffy note that Facebook has introduced the culture of insulting others on the platform, affecting the mental states of the victims due to the many users who can see the insults (140).
Secondly, Facebook has provided a favorable platform for bullying and harassment of some users utilizing the technology. Bullying and harassment have been rampant on Facebook due to the virtual nature of the technology as well as the anonymous nature of communication that can be achieved by some users on the site (Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport 423). The cases of bullying and harassment on Facebook have been recorded firstly in the form of commenting negatively on individual’s pictures or comments that they have posted. Bullies often make fun of the victims and, in some instances, make threats. Consequently, the victims are depressed by these actions, while the bullies tend to find pleasure in intimidating their victims through Facebook. Another form of harassment and bullying is the initiative to create embarrassing pictures and videos and circulating them to many users of the Facebook platform. Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport argue that bullying and harassment are done by fake accounts that bear impersonations by the bullies to avoid detection (423). Another violation involves hacking into other users’ accounts and posting unwarranted and undesired content that is often embarrassing for the targeted victims. Hacking is unethical as it harms the reputation and values of the person. The hackers target the password to have unwarranted access to their private information on Facebook and alter it to create a compromising situation for their victims.
Lastly, Facebook has been used as a tool to threaten individuals, especially its users, to either gain financially or have the victims living in fear of being attacked or harmed. Governmental agencies that investigate criminal activities have often received complaints from Facebook users that they have had been threatened by some users (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). Most of the threats are made by the fake account to cause panic or harm their victims. Threats on Facebook are passed to victims in the form of private messages so that many cannot witness the person being harassed. Another form of threat involves sending pictures that relate to crime or attacks being made to suggest harm to the victims. Most of the victims fail to report harassment cases and threats to the authorities for fear of being detected (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Facebook is not as safe as it may be presumed due to the presence of bullying, harassment and being susceptible to threats from unknown users in the platform. The purpose of this social media, which is to reach out to friends and family communicate, has been abused, making it vulnerable to unethical practices that threaten the existence of the technology. A report by Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport reveals that most users of social media platforms have encountered bullying on the sites (438). It is important to note that even if one restricts their Facebook friends to only those that they know, it does not secure the person from being cyberbullied. Violation of rights, privacy, and confidentiality of the users presents a challenge towards the use of the platform, which makes Facebook seem more harmful than beneficial.
There have been concerns by policymakers, teachers, advocates and parents about the issues of Facebook among teenagers and their overall effect on their lifestyle. However, it can be noted that some of these problems that are being experienced on Facebook can be managed if the relevant stakeholders are involved in resolving the issue. Espejo argues that parents need to guide their children on the ethical use of social media platforms to reduce cases of inappropriate behavior and malpractice on the internet (21). School teachers could also play a major role in providing education on the negative effects of cyberbullying, insults and threats on Facebook. These lessons could provide students with the knowledge and understanding of what it means to ethically utilize Facebook and other social media platforms without compromising the privacy and freedom of other users (Espejo 22).
Moreover, offenders who are involved in bullying, threatening and insulting other Facebook users should be punished to discourage the behavior and protect other users. These measures demonstrate that Facebook can be used without negative effects. Furthermore, Facebook and other social media platforms prove more beneficial in providing entertainment, connecting individuals and creating networks that are beneficial for people.
In conclusion, Facebook has become a social networking site associated with internet trolling, cyberbullying, harassment and insults that are now more prevalent online than anywhere else. Cyberbullying takes place behind screens, and its impact is always destructive since it damages people’s mental health and reputations. However, before blame is put on the technology for the rise in cyberbullying, it is worthwhile to consider that, when a person encounters cyberbullying, it is their responsibility to stand against it, support the victims and make sure to educate children on what it means to be a good social media user. The government should pass laws that will prevent its citizens from misusing social sites like Facebook and point out the consequences that one is likely to face if they become suspects of breaking the outlined guidelines. Furthermore, parents have to make sure that they monitor their children accounts to know who they interact with and in what way.
Espejo, Roman. Social Networking (Teen Rights and Freedom). Greenhaven Press, 2011.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “Online Harassment & Cyberstalking.” Privacyrights.Org, https://www.privacyrights.org/consumer-guides/online-harassment-cyberstalking. Accessed 8 October 2020.
Straubhaar, Joseph, Robert LaRose, and Lucinda Davenport. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Cengage Learning, 2013.
Tandoc, Edson C., Patrick Ferrucci, and Margaret Duffy. “Facebook Use, Envy, and Depression among College Students: Is Facebooking Depressing?” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 43, 2015, pp. 139-146.