15 April 2008

What Will Facebook Do in France?

PunditMom sent me this news, via 5 Resolutions - The French Government is preparing to ban "pro-ana" websites and blogs.

The world's first use of the law to tackle eating disorders is broadly aimed at the media and fashion world, but especially at the websites and blogs of the co-called pro-ana movement.

While many are support groups, others promote starvation as a "lifestyle choice", with girls and young women posting their wasting images as "thinspiration" for others.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have recently come under pressure in Britain and other countries to ban their pro-ana entries.

Fines of up to €30,000 and a two-year prison sentence will be imposed on offenders who "provoke a person to seek excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged restriction of nourishment" to the point of risking of death or damage to health. The prison term is raised to three years with a €45,000 fine if the person dies.
I acknowledge that a government-imposed ban like this is a big (and perhaps ham-handed) step, but to me at least the issue with social network utilities like MySpace and Facebook is much clearer and easier. I've written about this a gazillion times before. Facebook currently respects the free speech rights of people who tell sick girls to starve themselves and take narcotics more than they respect the free speech rights of women to post pictures of themselves breastfeeding kids.

Facebook's own terms of service agreement prohibits users from posting harmful content. It's obvious these groups are harmful. It's also obvious that breastfeeding pictures are not harmful, but helpful.

I've reached out to Facebook before - politely and openly - to ask them why. The answer was equally polite, but completely lacking in substance and coherence. I've resisted closing my Facebook account for three reasons: First, I use it for work purposes, though only occasionally (I don't use it for anything else); second, I believe in maintaining contact with people who disagree with me; and third, it's so ridiculously hard to completely erase your Facebook account I'd waste an entire day.

Stay tuned, and let me know what you think...

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