If you read this blog, you know that I occasionally get e-mails from a person at Facebook complaining or disputing my many Facebook related posts. I got another one today, this one directing my attention to this article:
The article reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated over $100 million to schools in Newark NJ. The e-mail that I received had this message in it for me:
"You go to great lengths to point out how Facebook is supposedly harmful for children and that Facebook as a company has no interest in the welfare of children. This donation by our CEO proves that you are very wrong and, I believe, discredits you as a critic."
Really?! So you create a product that readily reveals private information about children, that facilitates cyber-bullying and harassment from anonymous sources, and makes it easy for pedophiles and sexual predators to stalk and hunt minors...and this donation is supposed to make that all "ok." Seriously?
Pablo Escobar was one of the most generous donors to schools and social services in his local community in Columbia. Did that make the drug empire he ran "ok"? Did that make up for the millions of people who's lives were destroyed from addiction to his drugs? I'm not saying that Facebook is comparable to a Columbian drug cartel (far from it), but a donation doesn't automatically fix the problems. Morality isn't something you can purchase. I would have rather seen Zuckerberg invest that money into efforts around making Facebook safer for kids. Then at least he would be accepting responsibility for the problems his product creates.
And of course I have to end with my usual sermon. The blame for exposure to dangerous Facebook features does not lie solely with the people at Facebook. Any parent who lets their child get onto Facebook without direction or monitoring is equally to blame. Ignorance isn't an excuse, it's a form of laziness. Learn about Facebook and if you must let your kids on it, be there with them. It's a dangerous neighborhood.
(note: the communication I have received from Facebook has been from an anonymous person who claims to be a Facebook employee. No official communication from Facebook has been issued, though I would very much like to start that dialogue with them)