CEOP accuses Facebook of ‘missing the point’ in button row

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) has revealed why website Facebook has refused to install a panic button on its pages which would enable...

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre has revealed why Facebook has refused to install a panic button on its pages which would enable vulnerable users to report online predators directly to authorities.

Negotiations between Ceop and Facebook earlier this month concluded with the social networking site rejecting the move on the grounds that it was “not legally possible to make reports from the United States to the UK”; that Ceop “does not have the capacity to deal with the volume of reports which would arise from embedding the Click Ceop button on all Facebook profile pages” and that “people find buttons confusing and not an effective way of reporting”.

Ceop disagreed, claiming there were no legal barriers and that Ceop received hundreds of reports every month. The centre pointed out that the button is already embedded in other popular online environments, such as Bebo and MSN Messenger.

A statement from Coep said that Facebook was “missing the point”, adding, “this is not about Facebook and Ceop: this is about child protection.”

Joe Sullivan, principal psychologist at Ceop, said: “We know from speaking to offenders who have targeted children online that a visible police presence would have caused them to pause and possibly change their course of action.

“The risk of being reported by a child with easy access to law enforcement is likely to have more impact on the behaviour of an offender than simply being blocked, which would only temporarily frustrate them.”

Facebook has offered children’s charities millions of pounds of free advertising and has promised to strengthen its own safeguarding resources and raise awareness around online child protection.

But Zoe Hilton, Ceop’s head of safeguarding and child protection, said an awareness-raising campaign was “no replacement for an effective and immediate response for children who need help while using their services.”

Meanwhile, a Ceop study has found that one in five children have been threatened or bullied online, and more than one-third have shared personal information with someone they only knew online.

The study, conducted by Kingston University which surveyed 1,700 11-16 year olds, found that “significant numbers” of children said they had engaged in “high-risk” behaviour on internet networking sites.

Author Professor Julia Davidson, of Kingston University, said the study should be seen as a “wake-up call” on the dangers of the internet, recently highlighted by the murder of teenager Ashleigh Hall at the hands of a paedophile she met on the social networking site Facebook.

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