By Pat Cooper
The Fayette County Board of Commissioners is taking a smack at Facebook and they are the first in the state to do so. At Thursday night’s meeting, the board approved a resolution put forward by chairman Steve Brown condemning Facebook’s changes regarding the easing of teen privacy rules.
The board is hoping other county and city governments in metro Atlanta will also pass a similar resolution in an attempt to get Facebook to restore the teen privacy rules.
“If you’ve looked at the national and local newspapers, you will see that Facebook is changing its policies and relaxing standards for teens, 13 through 17 using the site,” Brown told an audience on Thursday. “Currently only people marked as friends or friends of friends can look at material, such as pictures, videos or personal information. It can only be seen by people you select.
“That’s going away, they are relaxing the rules and that opens the doors for other things to happen. When strangers can look at your children’s account we should all be very worried. This is what this resolution is all about. Somebody has got to say something.”
Brown noted that when he was mayor of Peachtree City he spent a year pushing measures to keep child predators and sex offenders from being able to live near bus stops, schools and playgrounds, “but it now appears that Facebook could create a means for these purveyors of evil to enter our children’s bedrooms through their computers. It appears that for the price of reaping additional advertising income off of their teenage patrons, Facebook is willing to allow the option of exposing those teenagers’ unique personal information such as photos and videos as well as sharing their thoughts in their posts.”
Brown said the resolution is not just “the five of us. We’re asking everybody in Fayette County to get on Facebook and ask them, through their own medium, not to ruin the privacy standards for teenagers.”
Brown commented on the problem of cyber bullying, which has resulted in suicide in teens, by pointing out that in a recent survey by MTV/Associated Press Facebook users ages 14 through 24 said that they had at least one encounter with electronic harassment; 72 percent said that online abuse is a problem and that society should address it.
“Even the youth of America is saying we need to so something about this. If this is what’s happening when we have those standards in place, you can only imagine what will happen when you take those safeguards away. The last thing we need to do is relax the standards.”
Brown also noted that the Atlanta Regional Commission is also taking up the same banner.
“Facebook’s policy change is a disaster for the users’ privacy and ownership rights of anything posted on Facebook not to mention the dangers it will create for children,” said Commissioner Randy Ognio.
Commissioner Allen McCarty expressed, “We must do everything in our power to protect our children and the future generations leading our county and nation. This is just a step in the right direction.”
Chairman Brown presented his idea of a resolution to the 10-county metropolitan Atlanta regional government, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and that board asked for a copy of the resolution for a vote of all the metro representatives.
The hope is that enough local governments will speak out, alerting parents and Facebook users, getting them to confront Facebook’s corporate office with requests for retaining tighter privacy policies with teenagers.
“Facebook has 1.2 billion users. You can’t tell me that as powerful as Facebook is, that it doesn’t have the technical expertise to connect teen users and advertisers without exposing teens’s information to predators.
“This is a thin line. It’s an epidemic and it’s our job to look after our children and keep them safe. Use their own medium to talk to them,” Brown said.