Facebook seems to have not taken seriously the crucial issue of online safety of young people in their recent discussions with the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Over 40 Chief Constables from UK police forces signed a letter organised by Jim Gamble, the chief exec of CEOP, urging Facebook to put a CEOP branded button on each user’s profile page – instead of the text link at present.
This week a four hour meeting happened in Washington between CEOP and Facebook, where Facebook refused to add the CEOP safety button to each user’s profile page, but did announce some new safety measures which it believes will be more effective in protecting children’s safety online. Instead of the button, UK users under the age of 19 will be able to click on the ‘Report abuse’ link on each page and have the option to report the abuse to CEOP as well as to Facebook.
“We completely accept that our users should be able to report abuse directly to CEOP but we disagree on the best design solution to implement that. From our experience big graphics of ‘buttons’ produce less good results – in terms of people actually reporting abuse. They intimidate and confuse people. We think our simple text link, which gives people the option to report abuse to CEOP as well as to the Facebook team, is a far more effective solution.”
“What I am pleased about is there is a commitment from them to improve what they provide to UK policing. Given that and the positive nature of it and their commitment to working much more closely with us, I still remain of the same view that the button is key. 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. 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.”
Because of this Gamble organised this letter, signed by police chiefs, including Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, urging for the CEOP branded button to be added onto each user’s page by Facebook. The letter believes the button will also act as a deterrent. It says: “Visible signs of police presence activity or alerts, alters the behaviour of criminals and deters them from committing offences.”
In the UK this is even more important following the case of Ashleigh Hall, who was murdered by Peter Chapman – a serial rapist who she met through Facebook.