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Facebook vows new security measures to combat alarming 'trolling' abuse trend

Facebook, the social networking site, has pledged to develop new security measures to combat a growing surge in cyber bullying and abuse of strangers.

Engineers at Facebook are reportedly working on new systems to fight the trend of “trolling”, where anonymous online users “bombard” victims with offensive messages or abuse.

Reports have claimed a growing number of “tribute” pages had been targeted including those in memory of the Cumbria shootings victims and soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

In other extreme cases such abuse has led to some teenagers committing suicide.

At present users can only manually delete abusive messages. But in efforts to combat the growing trend, Facebook officials said they were working on new systems that automatically delete abuse.

Administrators of such sites will also be given new advice on how to cope with “trolls” and be given access to the new tools.

It comes just weeks after the announcement that children using Facebook could now report bullying and suspicious behaviour directly to the authorities after the launch of a new application.

Officials figures from Ofcom show that children as young as eight were using Facebook despite age restrictions.

Jim Gamble, the chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), who has been working with Facebook to combat cyber bullying, welcomed the news.

Mr Gamble, Britain's most senior official responsible for protecting youngsters online, said the “ClickCEOP” application on Facebook had been downloaded more than 10,000 times since the button's launch last month.

The application gives users a direct link to advice, help and the ability to report cyber problems to the centre.

“We're working with Facebook. They are a good partner and we're going to get closer and closer to them,” he told ITV News.

“But in the longer term, we want the Click CEOP button to be a default. So you don't have to be sensible to realise you need it there, that you don't need to be a motivated parent to be reassured that your child is best protected.”

Mr Gamble has openly criticised Facebook, recently for not following the example of similar sites such as Bebo and failing to introduce the panic button on each user's profile page.

He has warned that officers had seen a significant increase in complaints from parents and children reporting alleged paedophiles, bullies and hackers who were exploiting the site.

A Facebook spokesman said that while the company already employed “robust” systems, engineers were developing new programmes to combat the threat.

“Because ‘trolls’ tend to set up fake accounts, we employ robust systems to flag and block them based on name and anomalous site activity,” he said.

“Users who send lots of messages to non-friends, for example, or whose friend requests are rejected at a high rate, are marked as suspect.

“We’ve built extensive grey lists that prevent users from signing up with names commonly associated with fake accounts.”

He added: “Through the reporting process our team is also able to identify additional accounts using the same IP address so it is possible in certain situations to proactively remove multiple fake accounts.

“There’s always room for improvement, which is why we have a team of security experts and site integrity engineers working on these systems and developing new ones.”

© Telegraph.co.uk