Facebook surpassed 750 million users this summer. That’s a heck of a lot of people, but not really news. What is news is the movement afoot banning Facebook from users.
Many companies are still banning Facebook in the name of productivity. Now some legislatures want to hit students right where they live. A circuit court judge in Missouri recently blocked law that would prohibit student and teacher conversations on Facebook, saying it would violate the right of free speech. The state legislature was hoping to avoid new ways for teachers to harass, sexually or otherwise, their students, and vice versa.
The proponents have legitimate concerns regarding online harassment or manipulation, but even if it was passed the law would probably not have mattered, because students these days know how to circumvent most restrictions on anything online.
Some experts suggest that purposefully slowing down Facebook to a crawl on school networks would be a good deterrent. Taking a different tack, Microsoft and IBM are each trying to build their own Facebook-like platforms to enable companies to be social and be safe at the same time.
What I would like to see is Facebook create safe zones inside the platform, where companies or schools could set up their own mini Facebooks. The users get the benefit of the familiar platform but can use it in a more controlled environment.
Whatever the solutions, running away and hiding or banning Facebook is not the right option — not now and not in the future, when today’s students are tomorrow’s office workers sharing their lives online.