Facebook encountered a bug in its system. The bug triggered the system to unblock some people that the users previously blocked. It prompted the company to issue a warning to more than 800,000 users.
In a blog post, Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer wrote:
“Starting today we are notifying over 800,000 users about a bug in Facebook and Messenger that unblocked some people they had blocked. The bug was active between May 29 and June 5 — and while someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience. For example pictures shared with friends of friends. We know that the ability to block someone is important — and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened.”
This bug affected Facebook and Messenger.
The company, however, didn’t state the number of those users who were temporarily unblocked took advantage of the system error to communicate with the people who blocked them. They might have viewed the profile information of those people that they could not access without the bug.
It’s a disturbing error from the social media giant. The block feature is a useful tool to help victims of harassment, for example, in shielding themselves against attackers from viewing them online. It gave these bad people a place to get a glimpse of their victims’ lives.
It’s another misstep from the company. Facebook is still recovering from a string of scandals. For instance, it’s still defending itself against intense criticism on how it played a role in spreading Russian propaganda and fake news.
Recently, the company admitted that Cambridge Analytics harvested personal data of Facebook’s millions of users. The data collected were allegedly utilized to affect voter’s opinion. After the discovery, the company apologized. As a result of this scandal, its stock prices fell. Experts called the collection of data as “inappropriate.”
What’s concerning is that the bug could negatively affect users’ online safety. The blocking tool is a useful medium to assist individuals to escape abuse from bullies. According to Pew Research Center, four in 10 Americans experienced harassment online. It could be in the form of name-calling, stalking or physical threats.
Younger individuals are prone to this abuse. Moreover, young women are highly likely to be harassed sexually than young men. People of color are also likely to be harassed online than white people.
Facebook is undoubtedly a great platform where people can connect with other individuals worldwide. They can share photos, videos, and messages with their family and friends.
However, it has its dark aspect. Bullies also use it to target users who are always using this tool. Online bullying and harassment is a problem and it’s growing in recent years. As a result, a lot of their victims become anxious and depressed. Some even committed suicide.
Although Facebook and other social media platforms provided some tools to provide online bullying and harassment, the problem remains and the number of victims of continue to grow.