Many parents and advocates have called on Facebook to remove popular “teen dating and flirting” sites, particularly in the wake of the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. The girl is alleged to have met her killer on the public page.
These groups feature all kinds of offensive, dangerous and potentially illegal content, including sexting, cyberbullying and even pornography. However, Facebook has been slow to react in removing them. According to The Washington Post, the advocacy group Justice for Children Without Voices reported the page to Facebook for removal and was told the site would remove it in 24 hours. However, 28 hours later, the page was still posted.
“It’s unclear why Facebook has allowed these groups to exist for this long,” wrote columnist Caitlin Dewey in the Post. “Many of the publicly viewable teen dating groups flagrantly flout the site’s community standards: Aside from the routine harassment and borderline hate speech, ‘Teen Dating and Flirting’ is also littered with explicit pornography. It’s unclear if the subjects of all those photos are adults.”
Facebook often has difficulty policing its own pages; since the site is so large, it depends on its own users to flag offensive content. In the case of pages like this, there’s almost no chance the teens themselves will report and ruin their own online community. So Facebook itself needs to step up and ensure this kind of dangerous online communication ceases immediately.