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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Facebook Attacked Over Refusal to Install Panic Button

Britain's online child protection agency attacked Facebook yesterday for its continued refusal to install a panic button on its site.

Richard Allan, head of policy for the social networking site in Europe, said it had agreed a series of measures allowing users in the UK to report concerns about child safety directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (Ceop).

The new system flags up Ceop after users have already gone through Facebook's own reporting procedure.

But Jim Gamble, the chief executive of Ceop, said that by rejecting a visible panic button, a measure supported by the police, the operators of the website had shown that they did not understand deterrence.

“Putting the button in a safety centre is liking putting a burglar alarm inside your house,” he said.

“People still break in because they don’t realise you are in there and at the end of the day your family is still traumatised.”

Mr Gamble met the heads of Facebook in Washington DC to try to persuade them to install the button, which would allow users to report inappropriate behaviour on the site directly to Ceop.

Other networking sites, including Bebo, have introduced the button but Facebook has agreed only to a link to Ceop after users have made an initial report on the site itself.

“Each website has taken the concept of the panic button and done it in a way that fits their environment,” Mr Allan said.

“That’s precisely what we are doing... If you click on the report link that is there today you get a screen right in your face to say you can report this to Ceop as well.”

The button has cross-party political support in Britain and is also backed by leading child and anti-bullying charities.

Chief constables from across England and Wales, including Sir Paul Stephenson, the Scotland Yard Commissioner, have signed a letter supporting the move.

Mr Gamble said: “If they don’t adopt the button we are simply not going to go away.

“We need to protect the children of the UK.”


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