Catch up with the online safeguarding news stories for November, in easy to read bitesize news segments.
2nd November – 81,000 accounts hacked on Facebook and put up for sale: Reports began to circulate claiming that around 81,000 Facebook users’ accounts had been hacked. The perpetrators told the BBC Russian Service that they had obtained private information from approximately 120 million accounts, which they were offering for sale. Most of the accounts affected were based in the Ukraine and Russia, but some were UK based. Whilst there was an acknowledgement (of sorts) from Facebook that a large number of accounts had been compromised, the actual number of 120 million was disputed. The revised estimated figure was nearer 81,000. Facebook stated that they had reported the matter to law enforcement and were working to prevent further accounts being affected.
5th November – Is your child on Gab?: Gab, the ‘Free Speech’ social network went back online after the company found a new web host. The sites previous host withdrew its service after it was revealed that the suspect in the gun attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, had been an active member of the site. Whilst its slogan is “a social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online”, Gab had previously been criticised for its tolerance of far-right speech makers. Essentially the site has become the ‘go to place’ for many who preach far-right extremist hatred and whom have been banned from the mainstream social networking sites
6th November – The Home Secretary takes a hard-line approach with tech giants: Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned social media giants that he would not be afraid to “take action” against them if they did not do more to tackle online child sexual exploitation. He said that online adverts for some very well-known brands, may well be funding sexual exploitation by unwittingly appearing on websites hosting child abuse.
8th November – Children’s personal online details being collected from birth: A new report from the Children’s Commissioner called ‘Who Knows What About Me’ identified that a child’s digital footprint can pre-date birth. Parents are posting online, too much personal data about their children. The concern is that this could ultimately have an impact on a child’s future. Increased risk of identity theft and fraud was cited as one example, whilst it also has the potential to affect job prospects and credit ratings. The Commissioner called for a “statutory duty of care” and for media companies to be more transparent about the information they collect and hold.
15th November – Dangerous ‘MiSafes’ child-tracking smartwatches: GPS enabled smart watches from MiSafes were exposed by the BBC as being simple to hack. The watches contained no encryption, meaning the accounts of the children were easily accessible to those hackers with the right software. The dangers are that everything the watch was designed to do for the parents, can also be done by sexual predators. This includes, tracking a child’s location, listening to their activities and a two-way calling function. The expert who aided the BBC said the watches should be discarded. The company did not respond to the BBC’s request to speak to them. These watches are available on eBay but have previously been banned from Amazon.
15th November – Instagram finally introduce their new dashboard: The social network has introduced the dashboard which it promised back in August. This allows its users to monitor how much time they are spending on the site and also to set time limits on their usage. Available under the banner ‘Your Activity’, users can set daily time limits or mute notifications. The latter is to allow users to take a break from the pressure of responding to new posts.
16th November – Tumblr removed from App Store because of child abuse material: Apple removed the Tumblr app from its store because child abuse content was being posted on the social network site. This followed a routine audit which discovered that offensive and explicit material was able to get through the site’s filters. When they became aware, Tumblr immediately removed the offensive content. The company stated that their priority was to resolve the issue and get Tumblr relisted on the App Store.
21st November – Child bride auction posted on Facebook: The social network site carried a viral post promoting an auction of a ‘child bride’ in South Sudan. The post was available for several days and the 17-year old victim was eventually ‘sold’ to a man three times her age, for the largest dowry ever seen in the country. Facebook was criticised for failing to remove the post. The media site is often very quick to quote their ‘strict’ rules around child abuse. However, their view of what constitutes child abuse clearly doesn’t stretch to forced marriage, human trafficking, modern slavery and undoubtedly rape. Facebook did not respond for requests to comment.
27th November – Snapchat used to sell sexual videos: The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme revealed that Snapchat is being used to sell explicit images and videos online. The programme featured a woman who makes £4,000 a month on the app sending her subscribers sexually explicit photos and videos of herself. When told by the BBC, Snapchat removed the material and associated hashtags. However, it would be naïve to think that this is an isolated incident.
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