Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Facebook urged to add 'panic button' for children

Updated on : Tuesday, April 13, 2010

LONDON: A British child protection agency said it has pressed Facebook to add "panic buttons" to its pages after the murder of a teenager was linked to the site.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), said the social networking giant did not agree to his demands outright at a meeting in Washington but he felt they were moving in the right direction.

Speaking after a four-hour meeting Monday, Gamble said Facebook was close to "doing the right thing" but urged the website to turn "words into action."

"I felt that at the end of what were lengthy and at times tense negotiation we are able to move towards a position. They are one small step away from doing the right thing," said Gamble.

"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.

"There is no doubt they are looking to improve their position around child safety and we recognise that. What I am looking for is turning words into action."

The showdown came after controversy in Britain over Facebook's refusal to include a "panic button" on its pages after the conviction of a serial rapist who used the site to lure and murder a teenage girl.

Peter Chapman posed as a young boy to lure 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall to her death in northeast England.

Calls have since grown for the inclusion of the buttons -- which allow youngsters who feel threatened online to quickly contact a number of sources of help, such as CEOP or anti-bullying helplines.

Politicians, police and anti-bullying groups have voiced outrage that the online giant will not bow to demands to include the system.

Gamble said: "In our view they are experts at creating a fantastic online environment but they are not experts in law enforcement, the power of deterrents and the reassurance it brings for mums and dads."

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