Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Confusion over Facebook cartoon campaign

Over the last weekend users of Facebook began to change their profile pictures to cartoon characters in what became a viral campaign. It was, so the restated text that was posted on thousands of users' walls, an effort to raise awareness of child cruelty [CNN]. However, some have suggested it may have been started as something more sinister.

A page on Facebook, cited as having started of the campaign, stated "Until Monday (Dec. 6), there should be no human faces on Facebook but an invasion of memories. This is for eliminating violence against children." The campaign page which was set up anonymously has been accused of being a "smokescreen for paedophiles" by some newspapers [Daily Mail].

The concerns were raised after the NSPCC posted a tweet on the social networking site Twitter saying, "Althought the NSPCC did not originate the childhood cartoon Facebook campaign, we welcome the attention it has brought to the work we do :)"

As rumours spread, a Facebook spokesman released a statement saying, "We're concerned with the suggestion that paedophiles could use this successful viral campaign to target young people. This is not the case. This campaign has been taken up by thousands of people, none of whom can be identified as young or old by the character they pick for their profile image. People on Facebook often change their profile picture and whether it is to an image of a cartoon character or a photo with friends, it does not make you less safe on Facebook. We were pleased to note that the NSPCC, while not responsible for the campaign, have welcomed the attention it has brought to this important issue." [Fox / Time]

While just changing profile pictures in itself does little to change the live of abused children, the viral campaign has certainly raised awareness. Some users posted video links to NSPCC videos on YouTube and others urged people to make donations to UNESCO and other organisations.

Cynicism prevailed on bulletin boards however. One commented "Changing your profile picture to a cartoon helps stop child abuse as much as saying you like flowers saves the planet." But there were others who thought the campaign was worthwhile. Posting a comment on the CNN webpage, Scholar J, who claims to have been molested as a child, wrote, "It might not help any children and proactive action is needed, but I for one am thankful to however started this. Not only has it created some awareness that will cause debate and hopefully cause some to become involved."

The rumours of a more sinister motive have been difficult to dispel however amongst suspicious minds. But there seems to have been some good from the campaign. According to Yahoo, MSNBC and TechNewsDaily, ChildHelp, one of the groups who found themselves thrust into the Facebook frenzy, did see results. "The response has been phenomenal," Walt Stutz, Director of Marketing ChildHelp, told TechNewsDaily. "Our Website usually gets about 2,500 unique visitors a day, but we got 10,000 on Saturday and another 10,000 on Sunday. It usually takes us at least two weeks to reach those numbers. It's been a wonderful surprise." Some even saw an increase in donations. TechNewsDaily reported The Child Abuse Prevention Association CEO Jeanetta Issa received an unexpected amount of small donations sent through its site, ChildAbusePrevention.org.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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