Personal privacy, profile settings, and online etiquette have been large topics since Facebook made adjustments earlier in 2010. But what do you do if you notice a profile that appears to be marketing illegal services? Read about when this  happened to me as a Facebook community manager and the action I took…

Sad boy potentially the victim of abuse, report Facebook profiles if you're in doubtIt seems there’s been a rush of social media “settings awareness,” that parallels the general concern of youth on the Internet.  Which is good!

I manage a Facebook Fan Page for a local business, and check fan numbers and new faces quite frequently.  I stay aware of who is coming and going to protect integrity with high interest in reputation management.

This morning I noticed a new fan and customarily clicked on their name to learn about them.  The profile listed both high school and college information.  In addition, most interests were geared toward relationships, dating, sex, and the like.  Links listed were for escorts in another country.  RED FLAG! The real concern came when I saw the picture of a young international girl – probably 14 or 15 years old.

Right away, episodes of Law & Order SVU twirled through my brain.  As the mother of a daughter, maternal instinct drove me to examine further.  What I was seeing truly appeared to be evidence of illegally marketing young girls to men in North America. If you have any doubts you should always report Facebook profiles that appear to be engaged in illegal activities.

What to do?  I couldn’t NOT do anything.  I HAD to do something!!

While Facebook’s Help section kept me wondering if I was proceeding correctly, they do provide a path that allows one to report questionable behavior with some efficiency.

Here’s what to do to report Facebook profiles:

  • At the bottom right corner of the Facebook screen is a word link, “Help.”  I clicked.
  • At the “Help Center” screen, I searched for, “reporting inappropriate…” at the very top of that page.
  • The following appeared automatically as a choice: “Where else can I report inappropriate or objectionable actions that have been taken against children?”  I clicked to choose.
  • This led me to the “Security: How do I report abuse?” page.  There, Facebook describes their position that they take great effort to assure user safety and strive to make sure interactions encountered on their site are of a safe manner.  They strongly encourage users to report suspicious people and inappropriate content.
  • Facebook provides a link to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP).  I clicked that as well.
  • At that point, the material is geared more toward citizens of the UK.  But there are links to the Virtual Global Taskforce, among other sources.
  • I was able to access a choice for my country origin, and was led to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, here in the United States.

The form provided did not seem correct to me at first — I did wonder if I was doing the right thing, or if by entering something incorrectly my information would go to the wrong place, which would then be negative for me.

A few minutes of reasoning later I completed the form.

You’ll need the following details to complete the form:

  • My name, address, phone number, and email.
  • A time that I would be available for them to call me back.
  • Web address where I found the information.
  • Name of the potential victim and where they are located.
  • Information about the potentially offending party.
  • Any websites listed that I considered offensive (limit of 5 per report).

Impressive – Within 5 hours I received a follow-up call!

The gentleman was direct, yet kind.  He let me know that he had taken a look at all the details I provided, and let me know that it was all good and that he forwarded it on to law enforcement.  He also thanked me for my report and asked if I had anything to add.  In addition, I was able to ask him questions pertaining to my situation and that of the business for the page I manage.  My contact assured me that there would be no repercussions on my end.

At this point, I only hope that my efforts lead to helping some unfortunate girl, and to stopping the offending sources.

Over all, I feel pretty good about my actions.  I have felt no discomfort from any part of the process, and I feel like I did the right thing.

Have you ever experienced similar?  What did you do?  If you haven’t, what would you do?

I’m very curious to hear what others have to say – please leave a comment or question!