Facebook has finally agreed to use the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) alert on its social network following a meeting with the Home Secretary.

The social network giant was summoned to see Alan Johnson yesterday after repeated resistance to adopting the so-called ‘panic button‘ on its user pages, like Bebo, MSN Live Messenger and many others have done.

Government pushes nationwide child safety campaign

It’s stance, that such reporting mechanisms have proved ineffective in the past raised the ire of Labour politicians, who wanted full support for the button as part of the government’s nationwide campaign to help their children stay safe online, launched last month.

Facebook told eWEEK Europe the outcome of yesterday’s meeting was “constructive”. A spokeswoman added: “We are both aligned on making the Internet safer.”

Johnson also issued a statement after the meeting, which said: “Alan Campbell [Parliamentary Under-Secretary responsible for crime reduction] and I reiterated our view that Facebook must find a way to use this button.”

The Facebook spokeswoman said the meeting also offered “an opportunity to run the Home Secretary through two things we plan to do right now,” which includes plans to put the button in our safety centre, which she said Facebook thinks “is a really sensible place for it to be, amongst all our other help and safety information”.

And it said it will put a link to Ceop and other organisations like BeatBullying at the end of our existing very effective reporting mechanism. “Both those measures will make Facebook even safer than it already is,” she added.

Johnson’s statement tallied with Facebook’s: “We had a frank exchange of views, in which I emphasised that including the Ceop abuse reporting button on their site has the potential to transform child protection – and that the company should put this above all other considerations.

“Facebook told us they have no objection to the principle of including the Ceop button on their site and that they have now agreed to a high level meeting with Ceop in Washington on 12 April to discuss this issue further.”

The Johnson statement added: “I am pleased that the meeting with Ceop is taking place and await the outcome with interest.”

Facebook on charm offensive

Facebook continued its charm offensive, touting the robustness of its existing reporting system. “The resulting system effectively handles all manner of potential abuse we see on the site, ranging from the common minor breaking of the rules, such as embarrassing pictures, to the extremely rare serious matters that are quickly escalated to law enforcement,” its statement continued.

Today, the social network lined up leading young people’s charities Beatbullying, YoungMinds and leading online safety expert, Dr Rachel O’Connell in support of Facebook’s proposed changes to its reporting function.

Emma-Jane Cross, BeatBullying chief executive said: “It’s crucial that people who feel they have been bullied online, can quickly get help. That’s why Beatbullying are pleased that Facebook are taking the right steps by working with third sector organisations like us and referring their users to a safe environment where they can get the correct support and advice they need.”

Dr Rachel O’Connell, leading expert on safety online and Chair of the Public Awareness Group of the Home Secretary’s Internet Task Force on Child Protection said: “These changes are a significant step to giving Facebook an even stronger reporting system for users who are looking for help and support online. Facebook’s partnership with organisations like YoungMinds.org and Beatbullying makes it more likely that young people will find the right help at the time they need it.”

Miya Knights

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