UPDATE: 8-08-2012 – It would seem from checking back at the site concerned that the problem has been resolved. It may not have been a problem at all, it is difficult to tell. However, exercising caution when using social media is advised at all time.
by Melanie Nathan, Jan 08, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook users who are trying to keep their sexuality private, usually do not allow “friends to see friends.” However users could be in danger of this privacy mode not being private at all; and that may be ocurring when users transform pages to the new Timeline format.
This could be the case even after users think they have remedied the situation, with a click of “me only,” after making the transformation; but there seems to be a glitch and that may not be happening.
A close friend contacted me today after transforming her Facebook page to Facebook’s new Timeline. She was perplexed that despite having gone through the process of checking “me only” on all the FB privacy setting prompts, “friends” were still visible to “friends,” a privacy setting she wanted to retain. While this setting may not be important to most FB users, it may be an imperative and even safety and life or death issue for LGBTI people, around the World.
As an LGBTI advocate I am acutely aware of the problems many in our community face and here are two examples of how this possible glitch could impact users both here in the U.S.A. and abroad:-
Many LGBTI people do not want co-workers, employers to see who their friends are. Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S.A. (and other countries) do not have work place protection against discrimination. Many gay people in the US are fired from work when employers find out about their sexuality. Legislation, known as The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) had yet to pass the U.S. Congress, to protect people from such discrimination. In the meantime if you do not want your employer to know who your friends on FB are and you switch to Timeline, you are at risk of being outed.
My friend tried to switch back out of Timeline but could not figure out how to do it. She went onto Google to try and get help, however it seems more people are endorsing that there is such a glitch. Also after we contacted FB we were told they would look into the matter.
However, at greater risk are the overseas LGBT activists and organizations, especially those in Africa, such as Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria. Many African gays (LGBTI people) are subject to criminal penalties if outed publicly, as these countries, some 70 plus around the world, criminalize homosexuality.
Many of these people are also actively seeking ways to leave those countries and obtain asylum abroad. They have made friends with overseas activists, asylum workers and other gay, lesbians – LGBTQI- people for support and resources.
Authorities could tap into citizens FB pages, to see who their friends are. Family members may notice rainbow flags from unknown friends around the world. Family members from certain cultures and religions notoriously harass gay members of their own families,risking shaming and its consequences which may include death. This could be particularly dangerous in countries where Sharia law applies as well as prison and death penalties. See my partial list of African countries below.
Perhaps Zuckerberg and the FB Team should realize that Facebook has become way more than social gathering, but is actually serving the needs of underground activism, resource and support sharing for marginalized communities in the LGBTI world. While many know the risks, Facebook has a huge responsibility that goes way beyond giggling teenage chit chat.
From David Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect,” we can note that Facebook’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has had to learn over time that not everyone wants to be open like he does. He still has this ideal about Facebook changing the world and making people more open about themselves and thus more accountable. However, numerous controversies over privacy have occurred over the years, and that’s forced him to change his tune on privacy. Now when he talks about changing the world, he’s more focused on things like content sharing.
Perhaps by the time I get this article up the Glitch will be gone – but err on the side of caution and check in first! Hopefully privacy setting will be preserved the minute of the switchover and made more difficult to change when transformations occur. “Oh yes and FB my friend who noticed the glitch says FB Timeline sucks, Maybe I will check out Google Plus!”
Examples of Countries in Africa which Criminalize Homosexuality
Kenya – Prison for 14 years
Uganda – Pending “kill-the-Gays Bill” – prison and possible death penalty
Mauritania – death penalty
Nigeria – Sharia Law
Tanzania – up to life in prison
Gambia – 14 years
Zambia – 14 years
South Sudan – 10 years
Libya – 5 years
Sudan – 5 years
Tunisia – 3 years
Morroco – 3 years
Cameroon – 5 years
Guinea – 3 years
Algeria – 2 years
Egypt- Not specifically outlawed, but other laws may apply
Angola – Not specifically outlawed, but other laws may apply
Sao Tome & Principe – may become legal
Seychelles – Illegal, but proposed legislative changes, and signed UN Declaration- unenforced – This is a safe destination, but stop over / plane change required in Kenya.
Mauritius – debating repeal and signed UN Declaration
Namibia – unenforced
Botswana – unenforced