Facebook adds "panic button" for children

Facebook is to add an optional “panic button” for children tomorrow after receiving pressure from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Starting tomorrow Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 18 will see a number of adverts and messages telling them about ClickCEOP. If they are interested, which they won’t be, they can then install the plugin which will give them quick access to the CEOP’s abuse report page should they encounter situations such as cyber bullying, hacking, viruses, harmful content, and sexual behaviour or grooming.

This is a far cry from what CEOP originally wanted, however, which is for the service to be automatically installed and made default for all under-18s using Facebook, as Bebo has done..

CEOP is not happy that Facebook has not agreed fully to its recommendations, but it said that it is a step in the right direction and it will continue to pressure Facebook to adopt the measure as default.

Facebook, however, believes that its approach is better, as it requires users to educate themselves on CEOP and online safety before installing the panic button. It believes that education is the key to protecting children, as opposed to simply adding a new report feature.

Those who ignore the adverts, however, will not have the feature in place should they encounter a situation that warrants an abuse report, which could mean an incident is ignored. 

On the other hand, abuse reports could be made for the any old thing, as has been seen before with Facebook’s own Report Abuse feature, where certain groups have been closed down after naysayers spammed the report feature.

Earlier this month CEOP released figures which showed that 6,291 reports had been made to it this year alone, with more than a third of those coming from the general public. 70 percent of public reports were made through the ClickCEOP button, suggesting that it is the most successful method CEOP is operating at the moment.

TechEye spoke to Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of the Family Rights Group, who welcomed the addition to Facebook, but did not believe it was enough. “This is long over due,” she told us. “However there’s no moral or practical justification for Facebook not doing more to protect children by installing the CEOP panic button as a default option for all young people using Facebook.”

CEOP got in touch with us to say: “We would say this is a significant step forwards although of course we’d like to see the ClickCEOP button appearing on every FB profile as default. The benefit of the ClickCEOP application is that it takes users directly to our help, support and advice pages where they are also able to make a report if necessary.” 

By contrast, Facebook should probably not have a look at the TechEye panic button, which immediately calls for a taxi from TechEye Towers to the nearest offie whenever we run out of brandy, whisky, scotch, pinot, chardonnay, cava, merlot, lager, ale, port, vodka, tequila, gin, rum, pure ethanol, moonshine or Listerine.