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Activists on Facebook need protection: senator

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Facebook has become an important tool for democracy and human rights activists and it needs to do more to protect them, including allowing the use of pseudonyms, a US senator said Thursday.

“Recent events in Egypt and Tunisia have again highlighted the significant costs and benefits of social networking technology like Facebook to democracy and human rights activists,” Senator Dick Durbin said in a letter to Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

“I commend you for providing an important tool to democracy and human-rights activists,” the Democrat from Illinois said.

“However, as millions of people around the world use Facebook to exercise their freedom of expression, I am concerned that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to protect human rights and avoid being exploited by repressive governments,” Durbin said.

“Facebook has facilitated efforts by activists to organize demonstrations and publicize human-rights abuses,” he said.

“At the same time, the Egyptian and Tunisian governments have reportedly used Facebook to monitor activists, which is surely aided by Facebook’s refusal to allow activists to use pseudonyms,” the senator said, citing Belarus, China, and Iran as other countries using social networking to track activists.

Durbin repeated a call for Facebook, which has nearly 600 million users, to join the Global Network Initiative (GNI), which has drafted a voluntary code of conduct to protect human rights and whose members include Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!

Responding to the senator’s letter, Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said “the trust people place in us is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.

“As demonstrated by our response to threats in Tunisia, we take this trust seriously and work aggressively every single day to protect people,” he said.

As for pseudonyms, Noyes said: “Facebook has always been based on a real name culture, and we fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for people who use the service.”

Referring to the appeal to join GNI, Noyes said, “as Facebook grows, we’ll absolutely be considering which groups we can actively participate in but it’s important to remember that our global operations are still small, with offices in only a handful of countries.”

Written by | Agence France-Presse

AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.

  • Anonymous

    Wait a minute. Isn’t Durbin the schmuck who’s planning huge cuts to Social Security?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XZOZFUWR3YKJ25ZUAQQZWO7R6I SR

    Does he know that DHS loves trolling facebook?

  • Robert Shaftoe

    He knows the people who use Facebook need protection because he’s also in on the shenanigans the government has been up to using Facebook and other social media to try to pinpoint people who they think are ‘troublemakers’ like Glenn Greenwald, or Julian Assange.

  • ThatBostonMan

    As for pseudonyms, Noyes said: “Facebook has always been based on a real name culture, and we fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for people who use the service.”

    There you have it. irrefutable evidence that Facebook is a law enforcement HONEYPOT corporation.

  • ThatBostonMan

    Facebook was design by and for law enforcement. Expect the undercover cop to add you as a friend and expect the informant to pressure you every day to get on and use Facebook.

  • Anonymous

    If you are old enough to be a long standing US Senator, you should not be allowed to comment on the power of social media, because you do not understand.

  • http://twitter.com/oldivory OLD IVORY

    1. The young people who use social media were not even born when I and others developed and used online social media. Social media is NOT new.
    2. Therefore, saying oldsters do not understand is immature and downright silly.
    3. Yes, most Politicans know little about it. However, have you ever heard of Barak Obama.? He, too,
    has been doing this stuff for years.
    4. Finally, you will be an older person some day and will see that if you are “out of the loop” it is your own fault. And you WILL become old.
    5. Your prejudice (here agism) is a bliht to your generation (if a youngster).
    6. Do you think coding computers just suddenly appeared because you were born? Get over yourself.
    Your prejudice would indicate you are an extremely closed minded right winger. This is how they think.

  • http://twitter.com/oldivory OLD IVORY

    Oh, another thing. The senator is full of shit and you might want to be more concerned with his disposition than clustering everyone with him. You might be blind, deaf, legless or lose use of your hands someday. But one thing is for certain, if you live long enough you WILL be old. And you will then know how ignorant (i.e., lacking in experience and knowledge) your comments are. I forgive you and all older folks do. We will try to not laugh when you are same. Peace out! (O, we invented that, too).

  • Anonymous

    Interesting, multi-pointed response to my benign one sentence comment_ I was not even taking a left or right side. and I think you missed my point.

  • Anonymous

    Why the hate honey? and I am old. I was just commenting that our government officials don’t understand social media enough to pretend to know what to do with it, which is a good thing. I don’t think that is controversial.

  • http://twitter.com/oldivory OLD IVORY

    I agree and said gov officials are for the most part ignorant regarding computer use. No hate. Just raised differently than these kids, which is the way it goes. However, if you read tweets and forums and comments enough you find that children are too inclined to judge oldsters of comp illiteracy. Gen X is probably the most offensive. I tutored them through their formative years. The previous and current generation is different and more open to human beings. My angry response is to those youngsters that want the teacher or tutor to make them dinner and then they could put it on their resume thta they knew how to make baked french toast. Idiots. Once one struggles through the fundamentals of devices and processes, particularly in the embryonic stages, one really knows their stuff adn can build upon it. If you know this, well, don’t read it. But I’ve been through one Pearls to Swine generation that thinks because they know how to Twitter (who can’t?) that anyone older is out of the loop. I am an old lady and have a digital recording system in my house where I record my own music. I started with patch cords and oscilloscopes. I’m rambling but you get the drift.

  • http://twitter.com/oldivory OLD IVORY

    I probably did. Sick of conservatives, especially girls, who do not know who won their right to own a car, house and even have credit cards in their names. And some of us did not do it waving a flag at protests. We went into the steel mills, the mid management offices, et al, and smiled til our faces hurt all awhile eating shit. And anyone on capitol hill that cannot use a computer should not be in office.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TTCYMSQW7E5EVBYYMS2YSNCSAM Anonymous

    I sincerely respect your position, but please remember that we Gen X’ers are no longer the children here. Most of us are in our late 30′s and early 40′s now, and we have families of our own. I get a lot of the flack you’re talking about from Gen Y, and in 10 years I’m sure they’ll get that same flack from those younger than they are. I hope you share my great amusement at watching these same people try to be more than an end user of computers and computer-driven devices. I think tinkering with my operating system or learning a new programming trick is a blast (and I don’t make my living in IT), and many of the people who think me out of date don’t even know how to use Windows Task Manager if a program freezes on them. When I was a kid, I thought absolutely everyone would have a strong understanding of how computers work and how to take care of them, upgrade them, and etc. by the time I got to the age I am now, and I am continually blown away by how computer illiterate most people are, regardless of age. We Gen X’ers remember the first desktop computers, we know what giant machines came before them, and we appreciate the older generation who did all of the hard work it took to make the computer a useful tool for the masses, one that is still having an astronomical impact on our world. At least all of the Gen X’ers I know do. We watched computers come to be, and we do not forget who made that happen.

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