What’s going on with Facebook?

Facebook has been in the news quite a lot recently, there have been allegations, investigations and corporate reshuffles. In case you have missed things, or have lost track of the story, here are the main points:

Facebook started life in 2004 as a social network app aiming to connect students at Harvard College. The name Facebook referred to the student directories often given to American university students containing student details and a portrait photo - a literal book or faces.

From there it expanded first to use across other US universities and eventually to the general public.

Facebook was the name of the application itself but also of the company that owned and operated it.
Like many tech corporations, Facebook the company grew not just through gaining more users but also through the buying of other tech companies and acquiring their expertise, software, applications and services.
In fact Facebook has acquired in the region of 90 companies since its inception, the most recognisable perhaps being Instagram, WhatsApp and virtual reality company Oculus.
You can find a complete list here, if you are interested in digging further.

Often the technology acquired has been rolled into the main Facebook application, though some of the more stand-alone applications such as Instagram retained their own branding with a small addition that refereed to them being owned by Facebook.

While Facebook is a strong brand this all makes sense, but things are changing.

The corporation ‘Facebook’ recently announced it was renaming and rebranding to ‘Meta’.
There are many reasons for a corporation to rebrand, here are perhaps some of the things which have led to this particular decision

1. Falling adoption

The Facebook application has for some time had a problem attracting younger users, in fact the ‘ageing population’ of the Facebook user base is well documented. I’ll bet if you ask your pupils they’ll tell you Facebook is what their parents or even grandparents use, but it’s not really for them.
Younger people have traditionally been an important driver in the rate of adoption and use of new technologies and so maintaining the ‘Facebook’ branding may well put off younger users from new services if they associate the branding with the activities of their elders.
For this reason, it’s easy to omit Facebook from discussions on online safety within schools, but as we’ve stated, Facebook has its fingers in lots of pies, many of which are very popular with young people. Maybe the rebranding to ‘Meta’ opens up the possibility for discussion, especially when understanding the various applications and how they can share data between them.

Further reading

2. Controversy

Almost since the very start, Facebook has courted controversy. Early on these were often about business practices, intellectual property wrangles or the personal and business relationships of the most well-known founder and figurehead Mark Zuckerberg. However, there have also been a fair amount of accusations and legal actions around things which should concern us more from a safeguarding and online safety stand point.

There have been numerous privacy issues, including the leaking of data and the corporate use of personal data by third parties. The case of Cambridge Analytica and it’s use of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users in its political marketing activities is one of the more well-known incidents. You can read more about that here

In addition, accusations of corporate practices leading to psychological harm, societal instability, tax avoidance, advertising fraud and dissemination of harmful fake news among others have tarnished the Facebook brand.

Recently an internal report showed that the company itself was aware of the potential harm its Instagram service was doing to teenage girls in particular. One slide in the report received a great deal of attention as it appeared to confirm the company knew that one in three teenage girls who had already experienced body-image issues stated that using Instagram made them feel worse. Specifically, the use of filtered images, posting selfies and viewing content with hashtags affected their well-being.

With reference to this and other corporate practices, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen recently alleged the social media giant put profit before user safety while answering questions from a UK parliament Joint Committee.

In time it’s likely that the wealth generation aspects of the company will move further away from the Facebook application itself and more towards its other brands and applications and so it makes sense to disassociate these from the Facebook name.

Further reading

3. The Metaverse

In the glitzy event to announce the rebranding of the Facebook corporation to ‘Meta’, Mark Zuckerberg introduced his vision on the ‘Metaverse’ - a social network expanded with virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D spaces which “will let you socialize [sic], learn, collaborate and play in ways that go beyond what we can imagine”.

This ‘vision’ instantly had commentators likening the idea to the concept of the ‘OASIS’ from the novel and movie ‘Ready Player One’ and has led to some speculation, some wild and some more reasoned, as to the potential future of social networking. The premium fear being that Zuckerberg and his colleagues failed to comprehend the dystopian theme of the story which has highlighted the dangers of giving up real life, for an existence in a corporate controlled virtual existence.

The ‘metaverse’ concept is not new and like many of the ideas which have propelled Facebook to its position of one of the richest tech companies in the world, was not originated by Mark Zuckerberg or his colleagues. Indeed, platforms such as Secondlife, have been around since the beginning of the century, but there is something about the current level of reach and adoption of Facebook (now Meta), that suggests we might be in for a major leap in adoption.
Additionally, by naming the company ‘Meta’ the association or even allusion that it somehow ‘owns’ the metaverse is somewhat of a shrewd business move.

Further reading

As ever, it’s not really possible to discuss Facebook/Meta or indeed social networks in general and conclude with any certainty as to whether they are a net good or evil. One thing is for certain, there are definitely dangers and problems which we need to ensure people are aware of and we need to equip ourselves with the abilities to detect, understand and neutralise; be that privacy concerns, scams or psychological harms.

This article has sought merely to contextualise the current state of Facebook/Meta and we intend to do some deeper dives into some of the areas raised in subsequent articles.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on December 01, 2021 17:57

Why e-safety is more than just an IT issue

It is widely considered that e-safety in schools is a technology issue and is therefore solely the responsibility of the IT Lead – we disagree

Excelacom_Internet_MinuteWhen a pupil uses Twitter to cyber bully a classmate, this isn’t because they are using Twitter, but rather they are demonstrating bad behaviour on Twitter. Similarly, if a teacher ‘friends’ a parent on Facebook, the action of the teacher is a matter of school policy and not the fault of Facebook. E-safety is therefore not just a system of filters and monitors but more importantly a matter of education.

Should raising the issue of e-safety with all those responsible for the protection of young people therefore just be left to the IT department? Should it not also include all teachers, parents, non-contact staff and indeed the pupils themselves.

The diagram shown – ‘What happens in an Internet minute’, provides evidence to support e-safety awareness across the curriculum. For example the number of hours of music listened to on Spotify could lead to an interesting discussion in a music class about the copyright issues and how artists are affected by illegal downloads. Or Instagram can be explored in a creative arts lesson. Amazon sales and e-commerce in general could be developed through maths and financial awareness studies. There are so many incredible and positive ways to use the Internet, there is no reason why e-safety education should not be equally as diverse.

We must, of course, address the issues of risk. Stranger danger has always been a safeguarding issue – yes even before the Internet. And bullying happened in the playground long before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on became some of the conduits for cyber bullies. Perhaps the new phrase ‘Digital Wellbeing’ rather than ‘e-safety’ may go some way to encourage those in more pastoral roles to look at ways to support online safety from a behavioural perspective.

It is important to remember that when Ofted introduced e-safety as part of the school inspection they stated as an indicator of inadequate practice:

“There is no progressive, planned e-safety education across the curriculum, for example there is only an assembly held annually”
There are some great campaigns held throughout the year that highlight Internet safety issues, Safer Internet Day, the Childnet Film Competition, Anti-Bullying Week and so on. However, these should not be seen as stand-alone, one-off events, but more the culmination of a programme of learning throughout the year.

At E-safety Support we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and hear examples of how you are dealing with e-safety across the curriculum. Please use the comments section below to share your ideas with other teachers.

If you would like ideas about planning e-safety throughout the year, our 2016 planner is still available to download from your E-safety Support dashboard.

Picture Credit – ‘2016 What happens in an Internet minute’ is copyright Excelacom

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on April 21, 2016 12:48

E-safety Review of 2014

Governor Training 8In the final E-safety Support article of the year, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to look back at some of the major news stories and events that have shaped the world of e-safety during 2014.

In January, the Christmas sales figures reported the huge increase in sales of tablet devises, changing the way many young people interact with the online environment. Unsurprisingly then, the biggest trend on display at the 2014 Bett show was that of implementing these devises into education.

February saw the 11th annual Safer Internet Day. Activities were held across the UK and reached millions. We are of course, looking forward to the event again in 2015. February also saw the fleeting internet craze, Nek-Nominate. This saw many young people taking sometimes fatal risks in order to go one better than their predecessors in this online phenomenon.

In March, a new NSPCC report found that 28% of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site have experienced something upsetting on it in the last year. In other news, teachers too were once again recognised by unions as needing ‘rules’ for social media usage. However, the positive side of social media was also recognised when the ‘no make-up selfie’ campaign raised millions for charity.

At the beginning of April, Ofsted released their latest inspecting e-safety briefing document containing suggestions for good and outstanding practice in this area. This report was to be later removed from the public domain, although the requirement for a robust e-safety provision in schools was still very much on the Ofsted agenda.

May saw the emergence of ‘Creepshots’, websites that operate like social networking media sites where members are encouraged to post photos that have been taken possibly without consent or knowledge of the person in them. May was also the month when the European Union set a major precedent over what is now referred to as the "right to be forgotten".

Slenderman made an appearance in June, the disturbing Internet creation that is being blamed for a series of near fatal stabbings. In other news in June, Facebook announced plans for a platform for children under 13 to have social networking profile. A report from AGV found that almost 80% of parents blame the Internet for forcing the 'Facts of Life' conversation. It was also suggested that contrary to popular opinion, children's unorthodox spelling and grammar while texting does not stop them learning the rules of formal English.

July saw the launch of Friendly WiFi. Friendly WiFi is the world’s first accreditation scheme designed to verify whether a business’ public Wi-Fi service meets a minimum level of filtering to block out access to pornographic and child abuse websites. This brand new service aims to protect young people when they access the Internet using Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, restaurants etc.

In August, a study by Oxford University saw the positive side of gaming, suggesting that playing video games for a short period each day could have a small but positive impact on child development. Also in August, Ofcom announced figures which suggested that six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults.

In September, The Telegraph reported that parents feel more confident talking to their children about notoriously tricky topics like the birds and the bees, puberty and race than they do about how to use the internet safely – and some plan to avoid it, despite admitting its importance. In related news, parents were encouraged to pay more attention to the apps their children download after new research found that nearly a third do not monitor the downloads their children make to their smartphones.

News in October reported that teenagers sending each other sexually explicit messages and images – known as sexting – is increasingly becoming a “normal” part of growing up. However, they were also warned about the risks and potential legal issues surrounding sexting. It was also in October when the leak of images from the popular app Snapchat (which became known as the ‘Snappening’) put the privacy of many young people at risk.

As we reached November, many schools and organisations geared up for Anti-Bullying Week. With more and more children owning mobile devices and spending longer online and on social media, cyber bullying is becoming one of the most common forms of bullying. The annual event organised by the Anti Bullying Alliance saw many activities across the UK.

And finally, in December, the Prime Minister spoke at the #We Protect Children Online summit to commit to tackling online safety. David Cameron revealed details of 3 main strategies to tackle online child exploitation; blocking internet search terms, identifying illegal images and Global child protection and laws.

Looking back, it’s been an eventful year, with the world of e-safety evolving and online trends coming and going in a flash. We expect 2015 to be no different, so will be continuing to support you and your school with up-to-date news and information about the e-safety issues that affect you.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on December 18, 2014 14:04

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