Facebook under fire over 'panic button'
Published 14/04/2010 | 05:00
FACEBOOK has come under attack from top police officers for refusing to adopt a "panic button", which would allow victims of online sexual grooming to report their concerns directly to the authorities.
The social-networking site yesterday announced that it would adopt the "button", designed by the British-based Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), on one page of its site -- a page which appears when users have already decided to report abuse.
But it is still refusing to adopt the button on every page of its site, as requested by CEOP, because it claims that to do so could create "additional complexity" and may result in fewer people reporting grooming.
Yesterday, in a letter signed by chief constables from 43 police forces across Britain, senior police officers said the steps taken by the social-networking giant were not good enough.
Facebook's announcement came after Jim Gamble, the chief executive of CEOP, travelled to Washington DC to discuss the button.
After the four-hour meeting, Facebook said that it would introduce a link to CEOP's reporting system which would appear when users decided to report abuse via the site's own measures. It also said it would invest €5.6m in education about how to stay safe online.
While acknowledging the concessions, Mr Gamble said the situation was still not satisfactory. "The critical issues remain unresolved," he said.
"We believe that -- without the deterrence provided by direct visible access to the CEOP button on every page -- children will not be empowered, parents cannot be reassured and the offender will not be deterred.
"During yesterday's constructive meeting with Facebook they did not say 'no' to the button. We are hopeful that, once they have considered their position, they will take the critical step to make their environment safer by adopting the CEOP link."
Last night Facebook defended its new measures and insisted it was committed to protecting its users from online paedophiles. Richard Allen, Facebook's director of policy for Europe, said: "We completely accept that our users should be able to report abuse directly to CEOP but we disagree on the best design solution.
"From our experience, 'buttons' produce less good results in terms of people actually reporting abuse. They intimidate and confuse people. We think our simple text link is a far more effective solution." (© Independent News Service)