Today, Facebook announced that they will allow a so-called “panic button” application on their website. The app is aimed at young people and teens who need to report instances of unwanted sexual advances, cyberbullying and threats of any type. Cases of abuse will be reported to the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (Ceop) and Facebook. Bebo became the first network to add the button with MySpace following suit, but Facebook resisted the change for months. They felt the reporting mechanisms they had in place were sufficient. However, there was a great amount of pressure placed on the Facebook team following the rape and murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall by a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, posing as a teenage boy, who she met on Facebook.
Facebook’s head of communications in the UK, Sophy Silver, told BBC News “We still have the Facebook reporting system and by having a pre-packaged application that users play an active part in, you not only help keep them safe, it makes all of their friends aware too, and acts as a viral awareness campaign.
Ultimately though, this makes for a safer environment for users and that’s the most important part.”
Jim Gamble, CEOP’s chief executive, said that sites such as Facebook and MySpace “are creating a public space that attracts young people, children and adults, so they can make money through advertising. There is a responsibility, a duty of care, to the young and the vulnerable.” Facebook plans to promote the button to young users by advertisements. However, it will not be pre-installed for users. “Facebook, for what it’s worth, would prefer that you not call this app a “panic button.” It’s an optional download that also provides messages about how to stay safe in addition to its abuse-reporting features.”
Do you feel that this app is something that is necessary? What, in your opinion, is the best method of keeping our kids safe online?