Facebook's track record, when it comes to standing up for users whose rights are threatened, is, to be gentle about it, rubbish. But GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has announced the cooperation of the social network in an effort end the online menacing of gay users. For this, Facebook deserves praise.
A Facebook page to honor teens like Tyler Clement, who took their own lives after homophobic abuse, was the target of human trash cans who littered it with slurs and filth. When GLAAD approached Facebook to encourage them to be more exacting in removing comments that violated the social network's terms of service, they responded strongly and immediately, making a commitment to quick turnaround on this and related pages.
"Educating people about the lasting and damaging impacts of ignorant and hateful comments is a responsibility shared by parents, educators, organizations like GLAAD, and services like Facebook. We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously."
Facebook further notes:
"(We must) strike a very delicate balance between giving people the freedom to express their opinions and viewpoints-even those that may be controversial to some-and maintaining a safe and trusted environment."
The Next Step?
What would be even better would be to see Facebook take another step forward in protecting its young gay users. What that step should be and how it could be taken while maintaining the freedom that allows those same kids to say what they choose at the top of their lungs I don't know. But it seems worth discussing.
All of us who discuss and exchange information in public understand the difficulty of maintaining the balance between free speech and decency in the face of the indecent. Profane slurs and death threats against kids do not contribute to the discussion of what's important for young people or for society. So whether you're a member of GLAAD or a Coalition for Traditional Marriage doesn't matter. We all have a responsibility to make sure kids aren't the targets of this kind of crap.