Local users of the popular social networking site ‘Facebook’ were appalled when attempts made by them to report and block several pages and groups that promote sexual violence, were not accepted by Facebook administrators.
The disturbing trend of ‘rape pages’ on Facebook came into light when several local Facebook users attempted to report and remove one such ‘closed’ group titled, ‘Kellanwa Rape karanna kamathi kollo’ (Boys who like to rape girls) administered by a local user operating under profile name Yoma Sly Croos (Tharuka). Efforts to urge Facebook administrators to remove the group by reporting the page have proven futile as such attempts have been returned with a notification stating that the group cannot be removed as it does not violate their ‘community standards’ pertaining to credible threat of violence, nudity or pornography.
Among other such rackets carried out on social networking sites that promoted sexual violence and sexually explicit content administered by local users include groups or pages that enabled its members to share phone numbers and offensive images of young Sri Lankan girls.
This is however not the first instance where Facebook failed to contain numerous networks of ‘cyber-anarchists’ who proliferate ‘rape pages’ that have in turn drawn in millions of users into such offensive groups . In 2011, a petition signed by close to 200,000 people in Britain and the US was directed at Facebook that urged the removal of a page named "You know she's playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alley". In spite of the continuous attempts however, similar offensive pages have only burgeoned on the social networking site, indicating disturbing signs of a new genre of violence and crimes.
When inquired of possible action that can be taken against the administrators of the page, the local law enforcement and other relevant authorities said they were unable to clamp down on the proliferation of such offensive activities on social networking sites.
“Facebook maintains their own terms and conditions pertaining to freedom of speech and the public right to expression. The free passage granted under such clauses has been clearly exploited by some of the users when creating offensive pages of this nature. Therefore, at present, none of the categories included for reporting a page or a group on Facebook covers the offences of this group. Therefore, we took action to write to Facebook administrators concerning the group. We are presently awaiting a response from them to determine the category on which users can report such offensive pages,” Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team | Coordination Center (SLCERT|CC) spokesman Roshan Chandraguptha said.
Meanwhile, Telecommunication and Information Technology Ministry Secretary H.M. Gunasekara speaking to Daily Mirror acknowledged the present legal framework was not equipped with the provisions to track or prosecute individuals engaged in criminal activities on social networking sites.
“We have received numerous complaints about various types of crimes that are emerging within the social networking sites and we have presently taken steps to inform the Defense Ministry concerning such activities,” he said. “That is why we are presently drafting revisions to the existing laws working in collaboration with the Attorney’s General’s Department, the Defense Ministry, the Information Communications Technology Agency and various telecom providers. Plans are underway to pass and gazette the act that would authorize and equip the local law enforcement agencies to take action against such activities.” (Lakna Paranamanna)