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Enhanced Facebook Security Won’t Include ‘Panic Button’

April 13, 2010

Officials from a child protection agency met with Facebook representatives on Monday in an effort to try and convince the social networking website to add a “panic button” for children.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), met with Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan in Washington D.C. for four hours yesterday, and while the networking agency has agreed to implement a series of new protections for younger users, they have not committed to the “panic button” linking them to the CEOP website.

What Facebook has vowed to do, according to various media reports, is to launch a new multimillion dollar education and awareness campaign, a 24-hour police hotline, and a new system for reporting abuses for users under 19 years of age.

In an interview with the AFP news agency, Gamble said that the organization was “one small step away from doing the right thing”¦ I am more optimistic than when I came.”

“They are not saying no, that is very clear. But they were equally direct and they came with their own agenda,” he added. “There is no doubt they are looking to improve their position around child safety and we recognize that. What I am looking for is turning words into action.”

Facebook has come under fire from officials in the UK and child protection groups around the world after the March murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall. Hall was murdered by serial rapist Peter Chapman, who had posed as a teenage boy on the social networking website, lured her to a location in northern England, and killed her.

“The investments and partnerships we’ve announced today will transform social networking safety and security,” Facebook vice-president of global communications and public policy Elliot Schrage told The Guardian on Tuesday. “They represent the most comprehensive public/private safety initiative since social networking began in the UK almost a decade ago.”

When asked by The Telegraph about the decision not to incorporate the “panic button” option, Richard Allen, the website’s director of European policy, said, “We completely accept that our users should be able to report abuse directly to CEOP but we disagree on the best design solution to implement that.”

“From our experience big graphics of “Ëœbuttons’ produce less good results,” he added. “They intimidate and confuse people. We think our simple text link, which gives people the option to report abuse to CEOP as well as to the Facebook team, is a far more effective solution.”

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