Dec 19, 2016

Using Facebook safely

Recently, a court order was issued to remand a 26-year-old person who allegedly threatened President, Prime Minister and opposition leader, through a fake Facebook account. Lesson learned: Facebook is not a toy. Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms used by Sri Lankans from all walks of life. However, only a handful of the users are actually aware of and are concerned about the regulations and ethics of being a socially responsible user. Below is a list of some of the important issues Facebook users need to pay attention to.

Fake accounts

Fake accounts are one of the major issues on the Facebook. Up to now, Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) has received 2100 within the year. Eighty percent of these were complaints on fake accounts. These include cases where a profile is created under one name but uses the pictures of another person and pretends to be the person whose pictures have been used. Under Facebook community standards, profiles that impersonate other people are removed.

Sharing pictures

Be cautious as to what pictures are being shared on Facebook. Be sensitive of what pictures are uploaded, whom you tag in it and who can actually view these photos. Think twice before uploading drunken pictures, pictures taken just after waking up, or any other pictures taken in awkward situations. It is best if pictures of others are not shared without asking them first. Some people are concerned about maintaining privacy and professionalism on Facebook and uploading pictures without their permission will somewhat undermine their efforts.

A good rule of thumb is to adjust the settings on Facebook found in the upper right hand corner of the home page. Make the uploaded pictures only visible to those tagged in it and not all of their friends. This would save a lot of people embarrassment and might even save somebody’s job. Also, don’t post anything work related without approval from someone higher up.

Minimize posts on your children

Posting information on your children on social media is ill advised. Do not bombard the Facebook with the pictures of your baby. Nobody wants to see every single moment of your kid’s life every time they login to Facebook. Also, strangers can use information on your children in order to harm them. There were reported cases where photos and other information posted by parents were used to kidnap children.

Friend requests

Do not send friend requests to people you don’t know in real life and don’t accept requests from those you don’t know in real life. It is unwise to add people unknown to you, just for the sake of increasing the number of friends on your profile. There is a chance that you are actually adding wolves in sheepskin. In the case that you need to add someone for a valid reason, do so through prior introduction or via a mutual friend.

However, do not take it personally if your friend request is not accepted. It is a case of personal preference, where some people tend to limit their friend list for various reasons. Do not send the same person a friend request more than once. The Facebook community standards consider repeatedly targeting other people with friend requests as bullying and harassment.

Expressing yourself

Communication on Facebook is mainly via printed content. The disadvantage of this is that people can misinterpret your tone. They might think you are being rude, when you are not and take straightforward posts to be sarcasm. One simple way is to use a smiley, as a smile at the end of the sentence tends to neutralize a statement which might otherwise sound rude.

Do not use Facebook status as a mean of letting out steam. This maybe something that happened at office, or a dispute with some person or a public issue. But posting insulting and abusive statements is unacceptable. In most cases it may be subject to legal action.
It is also important to understand that everybody is entitled to an opinion. Do not criticize or insult a person just because they have an opinion that is different from yours. It has become common practice to insult people who are completely unknown to you via comments, just for the sake of winning the argument. This is a violation Facebook community standards. Sending nude pictures to in boxes of Facebook friends or to members of a Facebook group is another common hazard on Facebook. This is outright sexual harassment and a violation of Facebook community standards.

SLCERT, Senior Information Security Engineer, Roshan Chandraguptha recently commented that the freedom of expression must be preserved on Facebook, as this is a free media where anyone can post anything including satire. According to him, even pornographic material is allowed, provided that such does not fall under harassment, bullying, threats, violence and terrorist propaganda.

“Community standards dictate how one can post, what one can post and what should be kept or removed, where removal is done on the basis of the right to privacy being violated. There are legal channels and mechanisms to which one can resort to in order to take action. Community standards must be maintained,” reiterated Chandraguptha.

- Dimuthu Attanayake