On Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, the Organization for Social Media Safety (SMS) officially launched operations. The Los Angeles City Council commended SMS on its launch and passed a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield declaring Feb. 13 Social Media Safety Day in the City of Los Angeles.
The Organization for Social Media Safety arose in response to tragedy. In late 2016, 14-year-old Jordan Peisner was standing with friends outside a local fast food restaurant when he was suddenly and viciously assaulted by another teen he did not know. During the attack and while Jordan lay helpless on the ground, witnesses and friends of the perpetrator stood and filmed the assault on their phones and then quickly uploaded their videos to social media. Now, this horrifying footage lives forever on social media already having been viewed by hundreds of thousands.
While Jordan slowly recovered from his ultimately lifelong, injuries, his father Ed Peisner resolved to make sure that no other child or family had to endure such an ordeal. Dedicating himself to public policy advocacy and spreading awareness, Ed began meeting with local legislators to explore solutions. Incredibly, within only a year, because of a lot of hard work, California passed Jordan’s Law (AB 1542), the nation’s first law to deter social media-motivated violence, attacks committed for the purpose of being filmed and distributed on social media to gain internet notoriety.
“As we were working on passing Jordan’s Law, we realized that so many of these social media-related dangers, from cyberbullying to human trafficking to propaganda were spiraling out of control,” said SMS founder Ed Peisner. “We decided we had to stand up and do something, and so, we founded the Organization for Social Media Safety.”
“We are the first consumer protection organization to truly focus on social media,” said Marc Berkman, SMS’ Executive Director. “Through a comprehensive program that includes innovative educational programming, public advocacy, and technology development, we will fight every day to make social media safe for everyone.”
“As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have been greatly concerned with hostile foreign nations using social media to tamper with our democracy,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (CA-30). “These tactics are a serious threat to all of us, and I am glad that groups like the Organization for Social Media Safety are fighting to keep this propaganda off of social media.”
SMS has ambitious plans for its first year of operation. It is embarking on a nation-wide educational tour to present its social media safety curriculum to students and parents. It is planning to conduct pilot programs with county child welfare agencies to teach foster youth and foster parents how best to stay safe on social media. It is working on groundbreaking social media safety legislation at the state level and with local school boards on enhancing social media safety policies. It has formed a world-class Advisory Council which includes members of Congress, state legislators, media executives, bullying and trafficking experts, and educators. And, it has formed, what it believes to be, the nation’s first student advisory council where teens can directly share their personal social media experiences with programming staff.