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New child-safety ‘hotline’ in Facebook for UK users

What has been widely referred to as a “panic button” for Facebook is now in place for the site’s some 23 million users in the UK. CEOP – the UK’s law enforcement organization that deals with online child exploitation, which for months has been pushing Facebook to create it – seems to have thought of it as a kind of 9-1-1 button (9-9-9 in the UK) for the social Web, a worthy concept for multiple stakeholders to consider together, but this is quite different and much less immediate than “9-1-1″ implies. It’s actually an app that British Facebook users have to download in order to use, The Guardian reports. Good, it’s another channel for getting help, but something more reflexive like picking up the phone would probably be faster and, meanwhile, flattering overtures, grooming, or criminal seductions by creeps in social sites unfortunately are not likely to cause youth unaware of their vulnerability to download a help app and reach out to a law enforcement agency, as I wrote back in April. Where the “ClickCEOP” app may be useful is if the conversations are public and noticed by friends or peers who download and use it out of concern for their friends. This is also a compromise. Facebook hasn’t backed away from its position “that one button published on every page of the site will attract too many false reports and create too much work for CEOP,” according to The Guardian. “What it does do is give CEOP the chance to put its logo, which is recognised by most UK schoolchildren, on an official page and use the virality of Facebook to promote the service.” But it has to be cool to be viral, The Guardian continues, so it thinks CEOP could do better with a marketing campaign than a FB app. It will have marketing help from Facebook, though. The site is “donating advertising to promote the it, including an ad that will appear on the home page of every UK Facebook member under 18,” reports ConnectSafely.org co-director Larry Magid in the Huffington Post. Here’s TechEye.net in Ireland with perspective from the London- and Washington-based Family Online Safety Institute.

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  1. Jo #

    Hi Anne
    Thanks for the post – have read Larry’s too.
    Have just been speaking to a number of FB users and kids – many cannot understand the fuss or for the matter the value. Caveats of course.
    My point – what has the App achieved/likely to achieve that sensible parenting has not already done so. If it is designed to avoid situations like the unfortunate incident involving Ashleigh, note that this young girl (+16) used MSN which had a “panic button”.
    What the CEOP-FB tells me?
    Law Enforcement have a strong influence.
    A victim-oriented approach to online safety – the lowest common denominator, (so to speak). How do you argue with a statement like – “what price would you put on the life of a child”?
    My response – consider the failure to deal with high volumes of child deaths on roads. You will no doubt be familiar with the debates about “children suffering head injuries on playgrounds” and the heated debates. We now have a not dissimilar debate in the online environment.

    PS Am working my way towards completing the book!

    July 18, 2010

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