Facebook: crime fighter and suicide inducer?

Ronny Kerr · August 5, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/9c5

Fourth-largest site on the Internet receiving mixed reviews

FacebookA flurry of tech blogs and news sites yesterday were quick to announce that Facebook is officially the fourth most visited site on the Internet. Gaining 24 million unique visitors worldwide in June compared to May, as tracked by comScore, the social networking behemoth is now only topped by the three pillars of search: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. In the past year alone, Facebook has grown 157%, expanding by 208 million visitors.

Interestingly, on the day of its ascension into comScore’s spot #4, Facebook was featured all over the Internet, at times being praised, at other times lambasted.

First, the praise.

Constable Scott Mills, Community Youth Officer for the Toronto Police Service’s Crime Stoppers program, guest-posted on the Facebook blog yesterday, describing how his group’s Facebook page has helped officers stop crime and prevent at-risk youth from making serious mistakes with their lives.

“Outreach through Facebook,” says Mills, “has helped Toronto Crime Stoppers sniff out threats against local schools, bring much needed help to people at risk of committing suicide, warn the public about criminals on the loose and even locate missing persons.”

Sounds good, right? Well, the archbishop of England and Wales flat-out disagrees.

Before Mills’ blog post praising Facebook even went online, the head of the Westminster diocese and spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, expressed in an interview with England's “The Sunday Telegraph” his views on the malicious effects of popular social networking sites.

Attacking Facebook as the death of “genuine” community in favor of “dehumanized” community, Nichols goes on to conclude that the site could have some factor in youth suicides: “Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships,” Nichols says. "They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate."

That’s two very different views from two very different heads on one very quickly growing hot issue.

As comScore’s latest data demonstrates, Facebook sees no signs of slowing. As it continues to alter its network daily, as the spread of information becomes more public throughout its site, and as the online community becomes a more universal experience for users, expect to see the wild and varied opinions from just about everyone on what Facebook is doing to and for humanity.

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