Facebook battles to beat the cyberbullies [Herald.ie, by Cormac Murphy, 31/7/2013 ]

FACEBOOK is trying to improve its reporting tools to combat cyber-bullying and other unsavoury online activities.

However, the social network giant with 1.1bn users worldwide does not keep data on complaints it receives.

It also said every complaint is assessed by a Facebook employee who then decides whether action is needed.

The briefing at the company’s Hanover Quay premises – its European HQ – took place amid ongoing controversies about users’ privacy and criminal activity online.

It emerged yesterday that bosses at Twitter could be hauled before MPs in Britain over actions to safeguard people from explicit and violent messages after a feminist campaigner and a Labour MP were sent rape threats.

Separately, Facebook has had to deny it allowed the National Security Agency in the US access to its servers.

The briefing heard Facebook received 9,000 valid requests from law enforcement officials in the US in the six months until the end of December 2012.

The reasons ranged from national security to a sheriff trying to locate a missing child.

In total, 19,000 users were affected, but Facebook is “very aggressive in pushing back against law enforcement requests” to protect subscribers’ privacy, according to its global chief privacy officer, Erin Egan.

No data was available on how many requests were made by gardai. It was reiterated that no access to the company’s servers has ever been granted to law enforcement officials.

Facebook has rules for investigating bullying, but distinguishes between offensive comments and direct bullying.

The company said it can’t solve cyberbullying but accepts it has a responsibility “to work towards that”.

“If someone is being bullied and they report it to us, we’re very strict on bullying, we take it down,” Facebook’s policy communications manager Linda Griffin said.

British PM David Cameron said he was worried about children running up large bills on online purchases, as well as the consequences of young people putting too much information on social media sites.

He said he would let Nancy (9), Arthur (7) and Florence (2) sign up to Facebook when they are older, but said he would warn them against damaging their career prospects.

Meanwhile, the company has no plans to cease hosting the controversial ask.fm app, which has been at the centre of a string of bullying cases.

Ask.fm founder Mark Terebin has rejected any link between the website and teenage suicide.