Facebook wants you to know it’s listening when you report bullying, hate speech, identity theft, and spam, so today it launched a new Support Dashboard for tracking these reports until they’re resolved. Users can check to see if their report has been reviewed, be notified of whether the offensive content was removed or left up, and learn why the decision was made. The Support Dashboard is gradually rolling out to the Account Settings menu starting today with Facebook tracking Timeline and photo flags there, and monitoring for more content types will be added soon.
Cyberbullying has emerged as huge problem across the Internet and especially on Facebook, where Consumer Reports says one million children were bullied from June 2010-2011. The Support Dashboard should make users feel more confident about spending time on Facebook because they know if they’re abused and report it, their problems will actually be heard and responded to.
Facebook’s progress on fighting bullying and other abuse are commendable, especially compared to other social networks. While younger but with more mature user bases, Twitter has no abuse reporting options, only spam flagging and blocking, and Google+ lets you report several types of abuse, but won’t notify you of its decision to remove or leave up flagged content.
Last year Facebook created “social reporting” to help users resolve bullying and other abuse issues themselves. If someone posts a photo of you or anything else that you find offensive but that doesn’t technically violate Facebook’s community standards, the system lets you ask the uploader to take it down.
If that doesn’t work or the abuse does violate the site’s policies, users can escalate the complaint by sending it to Facebook through “Report” buttons around the site. And now they can track complaints about violence and threats, self-harm, bullying and harassment, hate speech, graphic violence, nudity and pornography, identity and privacy, intellectual property, phishing, and spam through the Support Dashboard.
Facebook says, “we have consistently received feedback that once people report something to us, they did not know where it went or whether it was handled.” That’s unfortunate, since Facebook pays to have “employees who assess reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in dozens of languages.” Dropping the veil between the abused and those that can help them should make Facebook seem like a more friendly place.
I’ve spoken with friends who teach in middle schools, and sadly they say that cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent activities their students engage in on Facebook. In fact, by 2007, Pew reports the that 39% of social networking site users had been harassed and that 34% of teens were very upset or afraid of online harassment. President Obama even took to Facebook to denounce cyberbullying last year.
Similar to how it’s generally believed that kids bullied in school are less likely to want to attend, and get worse grades, Facebook could be losing users and engagement due to fears of cyberbullying. This isn’t just a moral issue, it impacts Facebook’s business too. Hopefully beyond making victims feel safer, the Support Dashboard will serve as a warning to bullies that if they abuse other users, they could have their accounts terminated and lose all their Facebook friends.