Plan to shut Facebook accounts

Parents greet plan to shut bullies’ Facebook accounts

As social networking grows, a partnership between Facebook and educators hopes to reduce the level of online bullying faced by children.

CYBER-bullies could lose their Facebook accounts in a bid to halt a growing problem with bullying on the online social network. The move has been welcomed by one of the largest parents’ federations, Peep, which had been taking part in an education ministry conference on bullying with educators, parents and internet watchdogs such as e-enfance and the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL).

Peep president, Claudine Caux, said a Facebook representative had suggested the move: “The proposition was to work with them on a training module for ourselves and for teachers and at the same time to see if it is possible to close the Facebook accounts of those who bully,” said Mrs Caux. “I think that would be good. The internet is a wonderful, clever tool, but wrongly used it can cause a lot of harm. We already have a partnership with e-enfance, who train Peep trainers in internet safety, and who then give presentations to our members.”

Facebook training would be organised in each education authority area. She added that cyber-bullying was not exclusive to Facebook but it had taken the initiative on a partnership. “In more and more disciplinary council meetings in schools (where teachers and parents’ representatives rule on sanctions) a pupil is accused of insults on Facebook. “Closing a pupil’s account is not necessarily the best solution, but for the moment, it is ‘a’ solution. However, we are waiting to see what the concrete results are,” she said.

Parents or teachers could complain to the police or gendarmes, who have a dedicated cybercrime unit, but she said that was for the most serious cases, adding: “Even so, small acts can lead to bigger ones. Things can very quickly escalate, especially if the behaviour is taken up by a group.” Ms Caux said: “The most important thing was that finally bullying has been recognised as a problem. Up to now in France, it was rather ignored by the education ministry. We have had presentations about what is done abroad, and it struck us that other countries are more advanced. However, parents’ federations have been sounding the alarm for a long time.”