**Warning – although there is nothing graphic in here I have added a small description of the programme which some of my readers may find disturbing.**
Last night my husband and I decided to watch Channel 4’s Dispatches – Inside Facebook. I have been a Facebook user for over 12 years now, with my interaction in Facebook declining as I have gotten older. I used to regularly post hundreds of pictures, regular status updates where as now my use has declined dramatically with the odd photo being shared from Instagram every now and again and a bit of a shop on Facebook Marketplace. My husband however deleted his Facebook account around 2 years ago after he disagreed with how Facebook used our data and sold it to third parties for advertisement. My husband you see is quite the technology geek and prefers social media platforms like twitter, or listens to podcasts. He looks at all this stuff on a deeper level than I ever have and yes that is probably a little concerning on my part but I love using Facebook to connect with friends and family who we don’t get to see all the time or live half way around the world. When we saw this programme advertised we both agreed it would be interesting to watch it.
The programme was shown at 9pm on Channel 4 last night with warnings of graphic content from the start. I always thought I had quite a strong mindset and have always been able to view graphic content without it bothering me as such. I have obviously felt certain emotions whilst viewing this content but I had always been able to detach myself from it which helped. During my Criminology degree I regularly reviewed real life crime documents which described in full details and sometimes images of the crimes to both adults and children. I was able to detach and digest this information without it affecting me too much.
But this was before having Amelia. Last night was the first time since having Amelia that I had been presented with such graphic content and this time I was not able to detach.
In the first 15 minutes of the programme it discussed the way Facebook hires moderators to control the content on its site. This would be content that is posted by users and would be flagged to the moderation team either by users or using an algorithm. The programme covered various topics such as self harm, bullying and drug usage but the first topic was child abuse. In those first 15 minutes of the programme they showed a blurred out video with the sound playing of a child that was being beaten by an adult. This video had been on Facebook for several years and clearly had been missed by moderators and allowed to remain on the site. The sound of the child crying and hearing thuds filled my living room and I burst into tears and my husband had to switch the TV off. We both couldn’t listen to that sound for any longer than the 5 seconds it had been on our TV. Although you couldn’t see anything the sound was more than enough and we both couldn’t watch anymore. We both took ourselves off to Amelia’s room and watched her sleeping. It was the comfort we both needed after hearing that. I know that Channel 4 did put a warning before the programme started but I was taken a back at how they showed such graphic content so close to the watershed. Call me naive but I just wasn’t ready for that.
It took a good 15 minutes before we both felt we could switch it back on and by this point the topic had moved to self harm and its presence on Facebook. Again not an easy topic to hear about but somehow seemed easier to watch than the previous topic.
It was definitely an interesting programme and there were parts where I felt Facebook were put in a difficult situation with matters of different opinions on what was right or wrong, and there in some instances where “ignoring” or “Marking as Disturbing” in my eyes was not enough action.
After watching the programme I was flooded with so much emotion. Anger that there are people in the world that think its right to harm a child, bully an adult, make racist remarks, share graphic content and show threatening behaviour. Sadness that there are people who have been affected by all the content we saw – adults who have self harmed because of bullying, people who have been beaten up and that poor child and other children and vulnerable adults that suffer abuse. Disgust that Facebook felt in some of those instances that content of that nature didn’t get deleted but was marked as “Ignore” or “Mark as Disturbing” which meant it remained on the site for users to be able to view and share.
For some of the topics I have mentioned above there were some parts where I felt Facebook had tricky choices to make, and it didn’t seem as black and white. In relation to self harm they could class a post as self harm admission and self harm promotion. I was really pleased to learn that if someone was brave enough to share a photo of their scars with a caption either asking for support, admitting to self harming, or talking about their journey this image wouldn’t be removed and support information would be sent to them. Whereas any posts classed as self harm promotion would be deleted and again support would be sent to them. It was good to see Facebook to be providing support for its more vulnerable users.
Both my husband and I couldn’t sleep last night and struggled to unhear that little boy crying. We sat for over an hour looking at pictures of our Amelia and watching videos. We both needed to see some light after some darkness for us to be able to sleep.
I couldn’t wait to hear my Amelia giggling this morning to flood my thoughts instead of what I had heard last night. I hugged her hard and then made a donation to The NSPCC. I wish I could do more and I am already thinking of ways I can do something regularly but this is my first little step to try and help someone else know that there is love out there for them.
For anyone that would like to make a donation to The NSPCC it’s so easy and simple to do straight from your phone – Text CHILDHOOD to 70044 to donate £4.