Hawaii schools struggle to stop Facebook confession pages

Hawaii schools struggle to stop Facebook confession pages
Published: Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:38 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii schools are being swept up in a disturbing new Facebook fad. Anonymous posts are prompting fears about cyberbullying targeting students and teachers on campus.

Many of the messages are too obscene to show on television and there is no way to tell if they're even true. The confession pages popped up on the mainland last summer, and schools in Hawaii are now struggling to stop them.

Facebook confession pages promise to reveal dirty little secrets. Iolani School found out about the embarrassing websites about a week ago. School officials said Facebook rejected their request to delete an offensive page.

"The seriousness of the harmful comments, the deceitfulness, and the possible bullying on the Facebook pages is really what concerns us," said Iolani's director of communications, Cathy Lee Chong.

Several private schools have been targeted. Hawaii News Now also found confession pages for at least 20 public high schools in Hawaii. The Department of Education is in touch with Honolulu police, but the scandalous stories don't fit a typical cybercrime case.

"What we have alerted our leaders to do within the DOE system is, and that includes our complex area superintendents as well as our principals, is if they see anything or hear anything that may be threatening of some sort that we immediately report it to the police," said DOE communications director Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Once a confession page is set up, people use software from Survey Monkey to send in anonymous messages which are then posted by the administrator. Comments that are obscene and derogatory can quickly ruin the reputation of students as well as teachers. Some schools have reached out to cyber safety advocate Chris Duque to try to remove the websites and identify the creators.

"Their knee-jerk reaction is, 'What can I do? Let's take it down right away," said Duque. "But they don't understand some legal requirements that have to be met."

Duque said there are ways of tracking down the people who create the pages. Techniques include using a court order, an undercover operation, or a combination of both.

While Iolani considers potential legal action, student government leaders are talking to their peers about responsible internet use. The school also has a Facebook compliments page featuring hundreds of positive posts.

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.