Facebook Abuse: Is Blocking People Enough?

 In Social Media, Social Networking

I didn’t think it would happen to me… but it has. This past week on Facebook, I was the victim of a slew of abuse from a very aggressive Facebook member.

I had a gut feeling about this character some time ago when we first friended. In a way, I’ve only myself to blame for having any interactions at all. I’d stepped in a couple times in the past on Facebook Notes to placate and defend other victims of this person’s abuse.

Of course it occurred to me I should unfriend and block this bully. But, truth is, I was concerned about a possible backlash I might trigger. This person seems to have some psychological challenges causing erratic behavior. One minute they seem pleasant and helpful, the next minute they turned into an attacking pitbull.

Everything came to a head when I saw a Note the bully wrote with personal assaults on a fine young professional contact of mine, and I felt compelled to step in and show my support for the innocent person. Sure enough, the backlash I feared came with a vengeance. I immediately unfriended and blocked this harasser.

[To block someone, click on the Privacy link at the very top or bottom of any Facebook page, and enter the name of the person you want to block (see screen-shot). This pulls up the possible profiles, from which you can identify and select the individual to block. You can also write to abuse [at] facebook.com, and you can use the Report feature on Notes and Groups.]

Turns out this same person has been banned from several other sites (including Facebook a few times, apparently!) and blocked by at least two prominent bloggers that I personally know. Yikes! Something is clearly wrong with the security of Facebook’s system if a banned person can keep showing up like the bad penny.

Now, let me just say, I’m always of the opinion that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I like to uplift, empower and praise people. I like to leave people feeling better about themselves after an interaction with me than before – whether in person, by email, on the phone, or my activities on Facebook.

Thing is, EVERYTHING on the internet could potentially be found by the public. By attacking other people, it says more about the attacker than it does their victims. And, every single time we write a blog post or a comment, or participate in activities in social networking sites – we not only reveal more of who we are and allow ourselves to be transparent, we may also leave ourselves vulnerable to having our postings used against us.

On that note, I’m eagerly awaiting Andy Beal’s new book Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online – due for publication on March 4, 2008.

My attacker is still out there spreading rubbish about me. And, I’m not sure that, inside Facebook, it’s possible (yet) to track postings about yourself from a person you’ve blocked. Blocking makes both parties practically invisible to each other. (I say practically, because I’m still seeing the occasional email in my Facebook Inbox from this harasser, in response to previous threads with multiple people).

Any suggestions? How can Facebook tighten up their system to prevent situations like this? Is it just a matter of Facebook members being vigilant about who they accept as friends? (After all, Mark Zuckerberg’s intent with Facebook is for members to stay connected with people they already know). Even so, there’s nothing to stop a “non-friend” from launching personal attacks. Ay-yi-yi… sure leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Caveat emptor.

Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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