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Facebook pages are weapons of mass (character) destruction

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 11:40 a.m. CDT

They’re weapons of mass destruction.

This week, three new Facebook “confession” pages popped up, each of which focuses on student life at Newton Senior High School. A few of the confessions contained on those pages are humorous pranks pulled on unsuspecting students and staff, and some are admissions of silly behavior or mental lapses that ended with “ha-ha” moments.

But most of the content on those pages features lurid descriptions of illicit sexual or drug-oriented behavior, both on and off campus. That, or they contain overt attacks upon the character of other students and staff at NHS.

Imagine the lives of young people and respected, long-time educators ruined by false accusations, or by the public display of their biggest mistakes. Think about walking down the halls after a group of people has “confessed” about you, wondering who’s watching — and better still, what they’re thinking about you at that moment.

In a necessary educational setting such as a high school, that can be devastating to large segments of the student body. And, in some very unfortunate cases, it could lead to even bigger tragedies whereby students decide to harm themselves or others.

With instructions in hand, one can create a weapon of mass destruction of his or her own in as little as six minutes. It requires no special hardware or advanced computer training.

In fact, you need to look no farther than Facebook itself for the instructions to create your own confessions page. By going to “administration resources,” there are dozens of links to user-submitted articles laying out the instructions to build a 100-percent anonymous page.

But you can’t necessarily blame Facebook, even if confessions pages violate its terms of service — and most would argue they do. The social media giant has nearly 1 billion users around the world, operating in 70 different languages.

Policing this sort of thing isn’t high on its priority list, particularly when it’s a publicly traded company in which high web traffic means a higher return on investment for its shareholders.

And, while we’re at it, let’s be honest enough to admit that some of the worst stuff we see on those pages is probably true. All one needs to do is have an open and honest discussion with a NHS student to know some of those stories have more than a grain of truth behind them.

Diving our collective heads in the sand and ignoring that fact won’t help, either.

This is a societal problem, which is going to require a societal solution. Simply expecting one facet of our society — educators — to pick up the pieces won’t work. Likewise, pointing the finger of blame at any one facet of our society — whether it’s educators, law enforcement, parents, or the entertainment industry — won’t work, either.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for everyone. We all need to come together to fix this situation. It’s high time we all sat down, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.

The preceding represents the opinion of the Newton Daily News Editorial Board. Letters to the editor in response may be submitted to newsroom@newtondailynews.com.

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