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Open Letter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Monday, 19 November 2012 10:35 By Raffi Cavoukian, Sandy Garossino and Other Child Welfare Advocates | Press Release
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November 14, 2012
 
Sheryl Sandberg
COO, Facebook, Inc.
 
Dear Ms. Sandberg,
 
We are a community of concerned citizens in British Columbia, including Amanda Todd’s mother. As  you may know, Amanda was contacted and blackmailed through Facebook by an adult predator who  impersonated local teens to enter her circles of friends. 
 
We write imploring you to lead change in the social media industry by correcting the security failures  that made such victimization possible. 
 
As shocking as Amanda’s story was, there is still much cause for worry.  A YouTube channel, The  Daily Capper, openly celebrates and promotes the sexual exploitation of many young girls, fueling  traffic to a dark web of under-age sex sites. Meanwhile, reports out of Indonesia document that predators use Facebook as a key tool enabling them to abduct under-age girls into human trafficking. 
 
Instagram, a photo-sharing program owned by Facebook, now features tens of thousands of images of  children uploaded by their babysitters, available for viewing by some 8 million daily users.  No security  prevents the inadvertent publication of profile information such as home addresses and phone  numbers, and Instagram has a map function that enables predators to find the location of many photos. 
 
Omegle is a site that invites kids as young as 13 to “Talk to Strangers” via video or text, and integrates  directly with Facebook Connect.  A simple YouTube search yields online instruction for contacting very  young girls, and Omegle itself has a feature through which lurkers can prompt users to inter-act with  each other, and to watch them anonymously. 
 
These examples point to serious systemic design defects that place children and teens in harm’s way. 
 
Known security gaps in a proliferating host of mobile applications have converted mainstream social  media sites into highly effective devices for predators and abusive bullies. And in what can only be  described as the cruelest irony, YouTube now sells advertising on Amanda’s desperate video cry for  help, while in a well-documented trend, her Facebook memorial page was desecrated.   
 
Facebook has become a brand feared by parents, when it should be one they can trust. 
 
We appeal to you as COO of Facebook, a mother, a visionary digital media leader, and member of the  board of The Walt Disney Company, to lead industry-wide adoption of systemic security to block predators and abusers from accessing kids on major social media platforms, starting with Facebook  itself. 
 
This is a consumer protection issue.  Facebook has over a billion users around the world, of which an estimated 20%, or 200 million, are aged 17 and under. Those users should be secure from contact  with unscrupulous predators and abusers.   
 
We are delighted to hear of your current initiative to reduce bullying and make young Facebook users safer through stronger reporting and educational resources, and we applaud your efforts. Yet while  education of parents and kids is laudable, the onus for safety must not rest solely with consumers. Parents are not equipped to navigate complex technology and what their kids (or their kids’ friends) do online is often outside their control.
 
Indeed, the principles of consumer protection are well established, particularly for products intended for  use by children. The burden of ensuring systemic product safety rests with the industry that designs,  engineers, markets and distributes it. 
 
Real safety in social media requires systemic change across the industry. 
 
We know that everyone in the legitimate social media industry wants kids to be safe.  As a society we have a duty to use all our powers to ensure young people are free from exploitation and abuse.  
 
Over the coming weeks and months our BC community will build a coordinated effort to press for industry reform and consumer protection.  As one final note, we implore you to ensure that memorial pages are monitored and abusive posts immediately removed. 
 
We would love to meet with you to discuss how Facebook can lead that change.
 
For Amanda,
 
 
Sandy Garossino, civic advocate, business owner, View from BC panelist, CKNW
Raffi Cavoukian C.M., O.B.C., Centre For Child Honouring 
Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd
Kim Cunliffe, bereaved mother of teen Darin Cunliffe, whose Facebook memorial was desecrated
Kip Woodward, Chair, Vancouver Coastal Health
Dr. Marlene Moretti, Senior Research Chair, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Saleema Noon, B.A. M.A., Sexual Health Educator
Out In Schools, Drew Dennis, Executive Director, Ross Johnstone, Director of Education
Maureen Palmer, Director CBC documentary Sext Up Kids 
Melissa Carr Vancouver’s “Top Mom Blogger”  http://thethirtiesgrind.com/
Bill Good, host, The Bill Good Show, CKNW, Corus Radio Network 
Bridgitte Anderson, VP, Corporate & Public Affairs, Edelman Vancouver View from BC panelist CKNW
Alise Mills, Strategic Communications & Media Relations,View from BC panelist, CKNW
Jen Shaeffers, Executive Director, CKNW Orphans Fund
Jessica Gares producer, The Bill Good Show, CKNW
Michael Tippett CEO, Ayoudo, Co-founder, NowPublic
Michelle Rupp, Community-builder and Principal, Lighthouse Leadership
Peter Ladner, Author, columnist, former city councillor
Bif Naked, International Recording Artist, author, advocate
Grimes, Claire Boucher, International Recording Artist
Shane Koyczan Canadian poet, anti-bullying author and advocate
Linda Solomon, CEO, Observer Media Group, Publisher, The Vancouver Observer
Mark Busse, Partner/Managing Director, Industrial Brand, Vancouver organizer; Creative Mornings
Meeru Dhalwala, Partner, Vij’s & Rangoli, author, healthy living advocate
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Raffi Cavoukian

For millions of fans, Raffi's music was the soundtrack of their childhood. These "beluga grads" now share his songs with their own kids. Raffi has been described by the Washington Post and the Toronto Star as the most popular children's entertainer in the western world, and Canada's all-time children's champion. Raffi is a tech enthusiast, entrepreneur, and ecology advocate. He holds three honorary degrees, is the recipient of numerous awards, and is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Club of Budapest.

 


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