Facebook needs to take action to stop predators from finding children easily and grooming them in private conversations.
This petition is informed by the work of Love146, an international human rights organization with over 15 years of experience working with children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Of the children we work with who were recruited online, many tell us that Facebook is the platform their traffickers used to first reach out to them.
HERE ARE THE 3 THINGS FACEBOOK NEEDS TO DO:
1. By default, stop children's friends lists from being public.
Right now, predators are exploiting Facebook’s lack of security and finding children with ease using friends lists. Children we work with often cite mutual “friends” as one of the primary criteria they use for determining if someone is “safe” to accept as a “friend.” Therefore, public friends lists provide predators with a road map they can use to connect with children they are seeking to exploit. Predators simply need to go through a friends list, and “friend” request several targeted children. When a few of these requests are accepted, they can then reach out to the targeted children, who are now more likely to accept these requests because of “mutual friends.”
2. Create a new privacy setting: “Who can see me on other people’s friends lists?” – and by default for children, make it “Only my friends.”
In addition, even when someone is proactive and sets their friends list as not public, they can still be seen on others’ friends lists without any control. This is a critical missing feature for all users and a huge safety issue for children in particular.
3. By default, allow children to receive direct messages only from close friends.
Once they become a "friend", predators use the messaging feature to privately connect with and groom children for exploitation. Facebook has already built in the ability to label people as “close friends.” However, the majority of the children we work with are unaware of this feature. When a friend request is sent to a child they should have to specify if someone is a “close friend.” Facebook should set the default so that only “close friends” can send messages through the platform. Messages sent by anyone else should go to the “message requests” folder, where they don’t trigger notifications and youth would feel less compelled to find and respond to them. Facebook's intention to add encryption to messages will make it more difficult for law enforcement to investigate, so it will be important that predators who attempt to interact with children on the platform are pushed out of encrypted conversations and into visible spaces, like comments.