Facebook rejects use of ‘panic button’ to protect teens

14 Apr 2010

Despite high-profile calls to install a panic button to placate worried parents as teens continue to migrate to Facebook, the social networking giant has rolled out a different set of safety measures.

However, new measures deployed by Facebook last night don’t include a panic button but instead it has deployed a ‘Safety Centre’ which it reckons address the concerns of parents. Understanding best practices for staying safe on Facebook, it said, are as important as learning not to talk to strangers or rules of the road.

The new Safety Centre includes:

·        Robust content: four times the number of pages dedicated to safety topics than was previously available

·        Interactive portal: rich multimedia content drawn from Facebook resources as well as independent organisations that seek to educate people about staying safe online

·        Streamlined design: clean, navigable interface created to help people quickly find answers to important safety questions organised by topic, such as ‘Addressing Personal Safety’ and ‘Responding to Objectionable Content’

Facebook’s Safety Centre content

The centre includes content such as defence against cyber bullying and content for parents developed with Common Sense Media, a member of its safety board.

Facebook also used the European Union’s Safer Social Networking Principles, a set of recommended best practices adopted by the social networking industry in consultation with the European Commission, to inform the new design.

“There’s no single answer to making the internet or Facebook safer,” says said Elliot Schrage, vice-president of Global Communications and Public Policy at Facebook.

“That’s why we’re introducing new tools and advice for parents, educators and teens. We want our approach for improving safety to be as simple, easy and effective as our approach to improving Facebook’s user experience. Our Safety Advisory Board has been a tremendous resource in developing this next generation of safety resources and offering us ideas for new initiatives. Going forward, you’ll see even more powerful – and simpler – safety innovations coming from Facebook.”

Facebook has already been at the centre of cases around paedophile rings, murder and lately the senior police officer in the UK responsible for child protection online, Jim Gamble, who leads the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, has warned that officers have seen a significant increase in complaints from parents and children reporting alleged paedophiles, bullies and hackers who are exploiting the site.

Gamble said that Facebook, who has insisted it has a secure internal system, has failed to report a single alleged paedophile to police. He also hit out at Facebook’s refusal to embed a panic button to each user’s profile page, which he claimed would deter paedophiles and protect children.

He said 252 Facebook complaints were made to police in the UK in the past three months – quadruple the number of complaints last year.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Social networking site Facebook has stressed that it has a secure internal system

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years