Facebook backtracks on child panic button

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Social-networking site agrees to include CEOP panic button as an optional extra

Facebook has finally agreed to work with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) by including a “panic button” – but only as an optional extra.

The online child task force's reporting has been critical of Facebook for not including the well-recognised ClickCEOP reporting service that takes potential victims of online abuse or grooming to experts online where they can report suspicious activity or seek advice.

It's not what we were looking for, but it is a step in the right direction

Facebook has finally agreed to start including the button as an option targeted at children between 13 and 18 years old, but not as default which was what CEOP wanted.

“It's not what we were looking for, but it is a step in the right direction,” a spokesperson for CEOP told PC Pro. “We'll continue working with them to see if we can get it to go further.”

Other social networks, such as Bebo, include ClickCEOP by default, but Facebook's implementation will allow users to access ClickCEOP directly from their Facebook homepage only via an application that can be added.

Facebook says it will back the new service with a series of adverts that will include an automatic advert-message on every homepage of users aged between 13 and 18 years, inviting them to add the application.

The service will be backed by a new CEOP page that, when ‘liked’, will look to engage with young people to help raise the profile of online safety.

Facebook says the application is more practical in engaging young people to learn about online safety than simply including a “panic button” and insists the fact that the service is not default will make it more useful.

“For users to download it they have to understand what it is and that involves a more heuristic approach, getting them thinking about online safety,” a spokesperson told PC Pro.

“From tomorrow all teenagers between 13 and 18 will see the adverts for the service on their homepage and can then choose whether to download the application or not.”

According to figures from CEOP, nearly 70% of the public reports it receives comes via its reporting button.

The CEOP centre had 6,291 intelligence reports this year, with just over a third coming from the public - and the majority of those came via the ClickCEOP reporting button, which the agency has tried to get major websites to feature to battle online grooming.

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