Given October is National Bullying Awareness Month, Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) launched a new page in its Family Safety Center to provide its one billion-plus users the tools they need to prevent cyber bullying.
In a statement released Thursday, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network said the new page was designed “to raise awareness about the specific actions people can take on Facebook to prevent bullying."
"The page builds on our commitment to keep people safe online by offering new and existing resources in one convenient location,” Facebook's Safety Team said in the statement.
As with many of the social and political criticisms Facebook runs into -- given the depth and breadth of information it holds about its immense user base -- the company is suggesting here that greater openness and involvement within the Facebook community, rather than enhanced protections or limitations on specific user behaviors, is the solution to one of its most controversial problems. Facebook thus hopes that services like social reporting, a feature that it introduced in March of 2011, will ultimately help Facebook users come to police themselves within the social network and network and beyond.
“Taking down harassing online comments won’t necessarily help people solve the underlying problem in the offline world,” the company admitted in its first statement introducing the new feature last year. “Social reporting is a way for people to quickly and easily ask for help from someone they trust. Safety and child psychology experts tell us that online issues are frequently a reflection of what is happening offline. By encouraging people to seek help from friends, we hope that many of these situations can be resolved face to face.”
There is, of course, an added benefit to Facebook if these new features prove effective besides allaying the concerns of those that want to prevent or regulate how children access its service, and the benefit has to do with the users themselves. As all of Facebook’s new experimental features indicate, the social media giant is trying to figure out how to more effectively monetize its users than it has so far been able to.
The common variable that will determine the success of everything from the new “Collections” feature to enhanced advertising systems is user engagement. And providing a sense of security is probably the most important thing Facebook can do to ensure that users remain more engaged. When it comes to safety, e-commerce isn't that different than traditional retail, after all: if customers don't feel safe, they're not going to pull out their wallets.
In true Facebook form, the company added in its Thursday statement that the support of its new anti-bullying campaigns has already amassed an impressive number of “likes.”
“We are also standing with the Ad Council as it launches its bullying prevention advertising campaign on TV, in print and online,” the statement said. “We are deeply integrating the Ad Council content into our Stop Bullying: Speak Up program, now in its second year with more than a million ‘likes’ and more than 140,000 young people and adults who have taken the pledge to be more than a bystander.”