MPs Urge Facebook to Add Child Protection Button

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Harriet Harman says MPs are “taking action” to make Facebook adopt the UK’s CEOP online protection scheme for children – although the site has argued it is not needed

Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman told the house of Commons that ministers would be urging Facebook to adopt a child protection button designed for the UK – even though Facebook argues that it would be counter productive.

“We need swift action on this,” said Ms Harman, when an MP raised the question of Facebook during questions on future Commons business, according to a Press Association report.  Labour’s Madeline Moon asked Ms Harman whether the government can “ensure that Facebook uses the CEOP alert”- a button which allows children to report suspicious activity directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), which was promoted in a government online safty campaign last month.

“I would strongly agree with you and this is the view of ministers as well, not least the Home Secretary (Alan Johnson). Action is being taken in this respect,” Ms Harman said – clearly implying that ministers would be getting in touch with Facebook to urge the use of the CEOP button.

Although the button has been adopted by online sites Bebo and others, Facebook argues that it is a UK-centric tool which would not work well alongside the reporting buttons it already has:  “The safety of Facebook users is our top priority,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We have reporting buttons on every page and continue to invest heavily in creating the most robust reporting system to support our 400 million users. We work closely with police forces in the UK and around the world and have trained staff on two continents giving 24 hour support in 70 languages.”

The site has maintained this stance since November, when it told the BBC that such buttons have actually proved ineffective when it tried them in the past, actually decreasing the number of abuse reports.

The issue of children’s safety online has been in the spotlight over the past week, after Peter Chapman (33) was convicted for murdering 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall. Chapman had got in touch with Hall via Facebook, leading to criticisms from some senior police officers over the dangers of social networking sites.

This was closely followed by allegations from the Daily Mail that teenagers on Facebook were approached “in seconds” by men asking for sexual favours. The allegation was withdrawn, but Facebook is considering suing the Daily Mail.

The Home Secretary is quoted in another Daily Mail article as saying that he “can’t see any reason why” the site does not have the Ceop button – the lack of which is “putting children at risk” according to the Mail.

Facebook has faced criticism from several directions about its attitude to online protection. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg suggested that users do not expecct privacy in online services.

On a smaller scale, some users have expressed doubts about the value of Facebook’s social interaction, prompting some religious users to “give up Facebook for Lent“.

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