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DSC5811 Easy Resize.com 1Bulgarian young people asked Julie de Bailliencourt, Safety Policy Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Facebook, to collect less personal data from users. Teenagers also proposed that the team of Facebook, the most popular social media in Bulgaria, think about minimizing offers for friends’ search.

 

About 30 young people from several schools participated in a discussion organized by Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre and Facebook which took place on 25th of March in Sofia. The discussion followed a regional meeting between Facebook and civil society organizations from 10 countries in Southeastern Europe which took place the previous day thanks to long term partnership between Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre and the social media.

Both Julie de Bailliencourt and Gabrilella Cseh, Head of Public Policy for Central and Eastern Europe for Facebook, introduced the young people to Facebook’s safety policy and tools. Then the teenagers worked in groups and their objective was to share their positive and negative experience in using social network. The young people pointed out as advantages of Facebook: easy and fast communication with friends and relatives, fast spreading of information and entertainment and learning opportunities. The teenagers identified as problems: fake news, spam massages and unwanted ads, notifications form unknown people, the amount of personal data gathered, fewer account managing options for mobile devices. Facebook managers answered the teenagers’ questions and recommended young people to register with their real age in order to be able to use minors’ protection tools and filters and also advised children to refrain from sharing their personal data publicly and not to hesitate to report inappropriate content and behavior. The company’s policy for content removal was also discussed with the teenagers. Facebook managers promised to look carefully at any additional feedback which the young people give through Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre.

The idea for Facebook youth event was inspired by the key findings from a National representative survey, conducted by Bulgarian Safer Internet Center. The survey revealed that 86.6% of Bulgarian children have their own profiles in social media. Three of four Bulgarian children aged 9-11 have their own accounts in a social network which means that the requirement everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account is frequently violated. Most often false age declared by children is above 18 years. However, this deprives them of all protections provided for consumers between 13 and 18 years of age.

Facebook is the most popular social media among Bulgarian children – 71.7% of them often use it. Percentage of children who have declared a false age has increased four times since 2010 – from 10% to 40%. The survey also reveals that 33.8% of children’s Facebook accounts are public, so everybody can access their profile content which means that children’s personal data is not secured and young people are at risk of unwanted contacts. Four of ten children aged 12-14 have public accounts. 33% of all children accept friend requests from unknown people.

A report on online risks and harms to Bulgarian children presenting the findings from National representative study can be found here.

Experts from 10 countries have participated at a regional meeting with Facebook managers which took place in Sofia on 24th of March. They came from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Serbia. Bulgarian Safer Internet Center was a host of the conference. Gabriella Cseh, Head of Public Policy for Central and Eastern Europe for Facebook, opened the meeting. She thanked to Bulgarian SIC for the long-term cooperation and the assistance in organizing the international event.

Experts from each country presented their own national context and identified the main concerns related to the use of social network by children and young people: fake accounts, cyber bullying, sextortion, sexting, hate speech, radicalization, fake news, pornography, hacking, declaring of false age by children under age of 13.

Julie de Bailliencourt underlined that Facebook hires teams of specialists who speak different languages to work on inappropriate content reports and the company do not use an automated system for processing these reports. She assured the participants at the meeting that Facebook team especially values signals and feedback received by experts and NGOs.

Than a lively discussion on the risks identified by the participants took place. The special importance of work to protect people from vulnerable groups was emphasized. Facebook representatives declared that this is their priority and they assured the participants that the company works closely with NGOs on this issue. Regarding the use of hate speech, Facebook's Privacy Policy Manager added that the company's policy is to remove offensive content targeting specific people who are associated with negative stereotypes about the group they belong to. At the same time, Facebook does not censor the expression of opinion, even negatively, when it focuses not on specific people from vulnerable groups but on a system of ideas.