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Facebook pressing all the wrong buttons

Facebook needs a Click CEOP buttonAt TenNine we always put youth safety above any other concern, and I’m certain all of our peers in UK Youth Marketing do the same.  So the current ‘Facebook concedes online safety demands’ story didn’t just catch my eye, I can only say I am utterly astonished at Facebook’s position.

Cyber safety awareness campaigns have been running in the UK for almost a decade, but following the recent conviction of Peter Chapman, 33 – jailed for raping and murdering 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall after luring her to her death by posing on Facebook as a 19-year-old boy – it has become an even hotter topic.  Most of the social networking sites popular in the UK are aware of their responsibilities to their young users and have been happy to go along with CEOP’s recommendation to include an obvious panic button (an online emergency call for any young person who felt threatened) on profiles and chat areas. Facebook’s refusal to comply is completely baffling.

Reported UK figures state that as a result of the panic button, at least 10,000 reports of bullying and inappropriate online contact cases have been passed to Police for investigation. The point of the button is simple: immediate help for a user as soon as they feel threatened.

So, as they’re the obvious kid on the block not getting involved, and given what has actually happened on their turf, surely an immediate Government request for Facebook to join in and assist the UK’s ongoing campaign for Youth safety – by putting an unmissable panic button on profile pages and messenger functionality – is what is called for?

London based CEOP went to Facebook for four hours of power talks with ‘senior figures’, not at their UK offices but 3676 miles away in Washington, DC.  First reports indicated that Facebook were just a small step away from doing what the rest of the UK youth-orientated social networking sites, the British Government and CEOP had asked.


Why the hold up?  It’s a panic button; no-one was looking to shut down the site!  “From our experience, ‘buttons’ produce less good results” say Facebook.  (Do you think they tell that to their advertisers…?)  They will look into setting up a ‘help page’ and Facebook have promised to staff a 24-hour hotline which police can call for help with emergencies, investigations and prosecutions.

Yes, that’s right, the Police can call them!

So, to get this straight, rather than a young user just hitting a button at the scene of their distress, they instead have to click through a few pages, find a ‘help area’, type out a message, select ‘Send’ and wait for a response.

But at least the message will go straight to the Police, right?

Err… no.  Facebook will monitor the help page, and expect the Police to call them.   Now help me out here, but I thought Facebook ran a website, not a qualified support group – aren’t the Police trained to handle sensitive cases?  And how will the Police even know they need to make that call if there’s no panic button??!!

This is despite Facebook receiving a letter signed by Chief Constables from 43 Police forces across Britain pointing out that “In the real world we do not filter reports through another organisation or company; the individual simply picks up a phone or visits their local police station. The ‘CLICK CEOP’ mechanism offers such a reporting service for the 21st-century citizen.”

The Police are so right here, Facebook’s proposal simply isn’t good enough.  The whole situation would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious; Facebook should know better and have no excuse for not doing the right thing weeks ago.

Saving a life is more important than the look or functionality of any website.  I hope between the Government, CEOP and now the Police, the message will get through.  You ain’t all that, Facebook.  Other social networking sites don’t think their layout is more important than safety.  Put a panic button on every page of your website, Facebook and do it now!

Click CEOP button


  1. Mark says:

    I have a second Facebook profile I use for playing games. I started getting chat messages offering me links to adult dating sites, but when I tried to report them there was no way of doing so. Facebook makes a big noise about report facilities at every level, but they seem to have overlooked the private chat facility.

    If someone was to sneak their way onto a kid’s friends list they would have no way of reporting any unwanted contact.

    This is a huge loophole in my opinion!

  2. Graeme Stirling says:

    Very definitely Mark.

    It’s just not appropriate in this instance for a clever solution regardless of how sophisticated their system is.

    CEOP state as a result of their School awareness programme, of which TenNine members were involved promoting Cyber Mentors / Beat Bullying, 5.2 million School Children know about the panic button.

    It’s 4 days on from when the story first broke and it’s gone quiet – hopefully by Monday common sense will have prevailed.

  3. alan scurfield says:

    Unless Facebook take further action by introducing the panic button as Prime Minister, Home Secretary and all 43 police forces request, they look set to collide directly with the new CAP codes which come into force 1st Sept (see my blog Mar 17th). New regulation 5.1.1 states “Children should not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers”. Surely this will mean that any advertiser linking with Facebook is liable to fall foul of this precautionary measure if the social network has not taken all reasonable precautions to prevent children talking online with adult strangers? More than this, if companies like TenNine abide by the rules which we do and we will, surely a big fish like Facebook flouting them would be unfair competition?

  4. Alan Scurfield says:

    New research from Kingston University for CEOP reveals that more than one in five young people aged 11-16 are sharing personal information such as their full name, where they go to school and photos, with strangers online. Although this is often viewed as acceptable by this demographic, most adults would consider this risky behaviour. Given Facebook’s current stance on the panic button the impression of a lurking danger is surely inescapable?

  5. Colin Munro says:

    As a father of two internet ‘savvy’ children, I would say that any interaction by children with the internet is fraught with ‘lurking danger’. However the responsibility for our children’s safety should not be delegated to a third party, it is our duty to ensure that our kids are not naive in their online travels and that we monitor their online activities in much the same way we would keep an eye on them outside. A great piece of software has been produced in Australia called ‘123 Educate Me’ {Google it}. This attempts to strike a balance between time spent on legitimate educational usage of the net and the more recreational indulgences of our children. Facebook is here, it’s popular and there is peer pressure to use it. Let us as intelligent, worldly adults police it ourselves.

  6. Colin Munro says:

    As a postscript let’s hope that whichever party gets into power we see less focus on a ‘nanny state’ and more sensible action on crime. The majority of the population should not have freedoms restricted by the action of a few. In a consumer led society, responsible advertisers such as TenNine, should not be shackled by an overprotective state.
    Let’s have more focus on eradicating the roots of crime than on cosmetic papering over the cracks.

  7. Stewie says:

    Facebook had to suspend its chat to fix a bug in its security settings. The bug allowed you to see your friends’ pending security requests and to earwig on live chats. (In yesterday’s Metro.) A bit more care needed, people!

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  10. […] not clear so far what timelines they will work to, but Talking to Youth is happy that adding its voice to those of every Police Force in Great Britain, the UK Government, CEOP and many hundreds of […]

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