21 February 2019
Friends must look out for one another on social network platforms, says Facebook's Mia Garlick. Photo: EJ Insight
Friends must look out for one another on social network platforms, says Facebook's Mia Garlick. Photo: EJ Insight

Facebook urges users to look out for friends in need

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 1.65 billion active users, is urging its users to look out for their friends and take the initiative to offer help if necessary.

“Safety and well-being are very important to people who connect themselves on Facebook. If people don’t have a positive experience on Facebook, our services are not very useful,” Mia Garlick, director of policy at the firm, told EJ Insight in an interview.

“At the moment, we rely on people to look out for their friends. If I know you, I can tell whether you are happy, sad or sarcastic,” said Garlick, who coordinates safety initiatives for Facebook across the Asia-Pacific region.

If people “keep posting sad faces”, we should consider if the friends might need any help, she said. 

In 2014, Facebook launched a campaign called “Help a friend in need” to make sure that friends and family have the resources to help identify when someone is in distress and know what steps to take, particularly in extreme cases where someone’s life might be in danger.

“Facebook is about friendship and network. Friends are the best way to look out for their friends,” Garlick said.

The Facebook executive said her firm has policies, tools and education campaigns in place to make sure that users have a positive experience.

“Our community standard outlined what you can and can’t do on the platform… We run a number of tools so that people can choose who to share with,” she said.

Facebook is doing 70 billion privacy checks per minute to make sure the right audience is seeing posts on its platform, while 8 million people use its social reporting tools per week.

Garlick noted that Facebook is also focusing on education and outreach to provide tips for educators, young people and parents about its safety center and cyberbullying prevention hub

Last year, the company rolled out the first sticker set in Myanmar from the Panzagar “flower speech campaign and Joosk illustrators as part of efforts to quell online hate speech.

On Wednesday, Garlick attended a panel discussion at the University of Hong Kong on “How to support people with emotional distress through Facebook”.

At the discussion she was joined by Prof. Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the university’s HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, and interacted with students, academics and NGO leaders in the first online safety workshop in Hong Kong.

On the same day, Garlick also participated in a workshop named “Online Safety and Engagement with the Youth”, which was co-organized by Facebook, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service and lawmaker Charles Peter Mok. The workshop was held in the Legislative Council building.

Prior to joining Facebook, Garlick had served as assistant secretary for Digital Economy and Convergence Strategy at the Australian government’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Previously, she also put in stints at YouTube and the non-profit organization Creative Commons.

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Facebook has hired local designers in Myanmar to produce comics that aim to spread a campaign against online hate speech. Credit: Facebook

Chief reporter at EJ Insight

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