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Facebook backtracks on 'panic button'

Tool could deter victims from reporting abuse

Facebook has backtracked on plans to install a 'panic button' on the social network that would allow users to report abuse.

During talks with the Home Secretary Alan Johnson yesterday, the social network initially said it had "no objections" to adding the CEOP Report button to the site.

Rival social network Bebo already offers users the button, which gives users access to advice and support from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre along with nine other different sources of help including Childline and Beatbullying.

The button also offers information on the latest viruses and hacking threats, and provides contacts for local police that can deal with reports of cyberbullying.

However, director of policy for Facebook, Richard Allan, said while the button might be effective in principle, it would only work "for other sites", and not Facebook.

Allan also said the button could deter victims from reporting abuse.

"Our experience of trying to put icons on the normal reporting flow is that it can reduce the number of reports."

Instead, the social network will offer users have links to organisations including the CEOP.

"When somebody has reported something to Facebook, at the end of that reporting process they can be given a text box linked to those resources (such as CEOP)."

This isn't enough for Jim Gamble, chief executive of the CEOP, who believes a CEOP Report button should be installed on every profile.

"Facebook is a great environment, they are experts on advertising and engaging with young people in those areas where you can get click-through. But they're not experts on child protection," he added.

The Home Secretary met with Facebook representatives following a number of concerns about the site's lack of links to the CEOP, which were raised after convicted sex offender Peter Chapman used the social network to contact and lure 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall to her death.

See also: Microsoft unveils child-friendly version of IE8


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