For my activist project this semester, I decided to focus on issues with cyberbullying, catfishing, and online privacy. I had heard of these issues before and was familiar with some of them; however, it was not until February of 2016 that I knew that this is what I want to do my project on.
I had received a text message in February from a friend of mine, saying that he had gotten a friend request from a girl by the name of Sarah Mills, but the profile picture of the account, was of me. Confused and worried, I quickly looked up the account and panicked as soon as I found it. She was not only using a picture of me as her profile picture, but she had also managed to find several other pictures of me and post them on her page as well.
The first thing I did was report the page, since that what Facebook tells you to do in the case of impersonation. Minutes later, I received a message from Facebook themselves, saying that they had reviewed the profile but found that it did not go against community standards. I began to panic even more because I did not understand how someone pretending to be me, did not go against their standards since it was clearly stated on their Community Standards page that they remove accounts that impersonate others if they are reported. I did not know why this page was created, so panic rose again. Was this done to bully me? Was the girl going to pretend to be me and make mean posts? Was this someone trying to attack me online?
My next thought was to call 311. When I called, the person I spoke with on the phone explained to me that unless the girl was harassing me or others, or had taken my social security number or other private information, that there was nothing they could do. They informed me that it is not against Facebook’s policy for a user to take and use someone else’s picture or information that is posted… even though impersonation violates their standards. My jaw dropped when I heard this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to prevent issues of cyberbullying and catfishing before they happened? Why wait until more damage was done?
After many of my friends reported the page, and nothing was being done, I decided to message the account. I message them saying that they did not have my consent in using my pictures, and if they could take them down. Hours later, I got a response saying “okay chill i just thought you was pretty and used your pics, because I’m trying to set my boyfriend up and see if he would cheat on me, its not that serious calm down.” Excuse me, what?!?!
The user ended up taking my pictures down after saying that she didn’t think I’d find the profile or find out that she used my pictures. Then I thought, I would how many other people have used my pictures, or pictures of other, without them knowing? And why is this allowed?!
And that is how this activist project idea came in mind.
If you look at any of Facebook’s Help Pages, it may seem as though they are doing everything possible to make sure you and your profile is safe and protected; however, a closer look at the Terms and Services section, proves otherwise. Facebook makes it extremely difficult to report if your picture is taken and used by someone else. By accepting the Terms and Services, when signing up for a Facebook account, you are actually accepting the fact that it is okay for someone else to take and use your name and/ or pictures. In order for Facebook to remove such content, it must be proven that there is some form of harassment or abuse.
“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).” – Facebook’s Terms of Service
With an issue this large, I realized that the one way I could achieve some success would be to raise awareness of these problems. I assumed that many people, like me, did not read Facebook’s Terms of Service before click “I agree”, so I did some research on my own and decided to inform people what exactly they are agreeing to, and why cyberbullying and catfishing is a serious problem. To do this, I decided to make a short video explaining the seriousness of the problems and what Facebook’s Terms of Service states.
In the video, I also wanted to incorporate other people’s personal encounters with cyberbullying and/or catfishing; however, I had a difficult time finding people who wanted to share such personal stories for the camera. So I decided to use my own story instead, which worked out well. I also was planning on doing a voice over for the video, but I had so many technically difficulties with iMovie, that I decided to make graphics with the text on the screen instead, which I think worked well, and maybe even better than a voice over would. I also think the music I selected for the video is more engaging and keeps the viewer’s attention more than a voice over would.
This project has helped me to realize that any form of activism, no matter big or small, can be considered activism. Prior to this, I believed that making a video would not be successful unless it went viral, but then I realized that even bringing awareness to a few people is better than bringing awareness to none. I have found that since beginning this class, I am voicing my opinion on issues that I find problematic, a lot more. Overall, I think this class has helped me understand that activism can be done by anyone and anywhere, on any scale. I am happy to have taken this knowledge from the course because I believe it will help me to want to do more activism in the future.