By Anne Collier
SafetyWeb, part of the newest wave of social Web monitoring products for parents, has created a useful service for Facebook users themselves: an app for finding and getting help for all sorts of problems. It’s a very simple little app that, with two clicks, places a “Find Help” link in the left-hand column of your home page (under your profile photo). Click on it, and you go to a page that aggregates links to nine sources of help, including Facebook’s Help Center for reporting abuse (e.g., harassment and cyberbullying), the Trevor Project’s lifeline for LGBT youth, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the National Center for Missing & Exploited’s CyberTipline, and the federal government’s locator page for substance-abuse help. On the page, seven of the help sources have toll-free numbers for people seeking immediate help. Though I was surprised RAINN.org and its National Sexual Assault Hotline aren’t in there (here’s the link to that hotline), it’s a big step of progress to have all these important sources of help and information gathered into one place. The app doesn’t get people help faster than calling the organizations’ hotlines directly or going to their own Web pages, but it represents much-needed convenience and awareness-raising. As for the Facebook link on the page, clicking on it doesn’t work any faster than reporting abuse from other locations in the site, but it’s another way to go right to FB’s Help Center and send it a report, so it definitely should be among the nine resources.
The very important message this page also sends, without overtly stating it, is that problems expressed in Facebook – from domestic violence to substance abuse to cyberbullying – are rarely problems Facebook can resolve. All of them, even cyberbullying, are largely offline problems that need the offline expertise represented on the SafetyWeb page. Facebook might delete an abusive account, but that’s not likely to affect an abuser’s motivation (it could actually fuel it). Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes online to offline problems. Still, this is conceptually one baby step closer to a 9-1-1 for the Web. Here’s coverage from Mashable and PC Magazine. [See also “Facebook: Why a Safety Center, not a ‘panic button”” and “New child-safety ‘hotline’ in Facebook for UK users.”]