After months of unfathomable negotiations with the Child Exploitation and Online Resource Centre (CEOP), social notworking behemoth Facebook has finally relented and included a panic button for younger users. Sort of.
Launched today, the new initiative will allow the CEOPS panic button to be included on the Facebook home page for the first time, though the time-wasting site for fake friends hasn't gone so far as to include the button without user intervention.
The button allows youngsters to easily report cases of suspected grooming and other inappropriate behaviour and comes in the wake of a number of high-profile cases in which children have been molested, or even murdered, as a result of contacts made on Facebook and other social media portals.
Facebook's reticence about adding the CEOPS panic button is well documented, with the outfit seemingly unwilling to admit that its notoriously insecure service was becoming a breeding ground for kiddy-fiddlers, and even now the privately-owned company has come to a compromise which some might see as somewhat lily-livered.
Rather than automatically placing the panic button on the home page of any subscriber who is under 18, the onus has been placed on the user to add the facility using an application.
"Access to the ClickCEOP button will be provided via an application that users can add or bookmark so that it appears on their homepage as not only a constant source of help and reassurance for them but also as a strong visual signal to their friends, family and others that they are in control online," said CEOPS in a statement.
"The application will be backed by a new CEOP page that, when ‘liked’, will look to engage with young people to help raise the profile of online safety. The move is also being supported by extensive wide spread advertising on Facebook that will encourage take up of the application. This will include an automatic advert-message appearing on every homepage of users aged between 13-18 years inviting them to add the application."
In a thinly-veiled crack at Facebook's heel-dragging over the issue, CEOP top man Jim Gamble said, "Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the Click CEOP button is well documented – today however is a good day for child protection. By adding this application, Facebook users will have direct access to all the services that sit behind our Click CEOP button which should provide reassurance to every parent with teenagers on the site.
“We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people online. We urge all Facebook users to add the app and bookmark it so that others can see that they’re in control online."
Reading between the lines of a carefully worded statement from Facebook VP Joanna Shields, it's obvious to us that the relationship between CEOPS and Facebook is still somewhat tense, to say the least.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our users, which is why we have invested so much in making Facebook one of the safest places on the internet," said Shields. "There is no single silver bullet to making the Internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP’s expertise in online safety.
“Together we have developed a new way of helping young people stay safe online and backed this with an awareness campaign to publicise it to young users. It is only through the constant and concerted effort of the industry, police, parents and young people themselves that we can all keep safe online – whether on Facebook or elsewhere.”