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Facebook Won't Install 'Panic Button' to Report Child Predators

After a 33-year-old U.K. man brutally raped and murdered a 17-year-old girl he met on Facebook, many demanded that the social networking site do more to protect its younger membership by installing a 'panic' button, which kids could click to instantly report danger. After lengthy consultations with child protection agencies, Facebook has indeed decided to take action, but has opted against implementing any sort of panic button -- much to the dismay of some child advocates.

Although Facebook acknowledged that such an option might work on other sites, it defended its current "robust reporting system," which, it says, "effectively handles all manner of potential abuse" that comes through the site already. A spokesman for the site, however, said Facebook was "exploring ways to improve safety," which could include adding more links to child protection watchdog organizations like Beatbullying, or the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP).

CEOP head Jim Gamble, though, was less than thrilled with Facebook's decision to nix the panic button. According to the BBC, Gamble thinks there should be a panic button on every profile page,"so that children are reassured and empowered," and that "offenders are deterred." He also questioned Facebook's reasoning behind its decision, saying that, while the site's developers have demonstrated a remarkable ability to engage a younger audience, "they're not experts on child protection."

From an image perspective, having the equivalent of a red telephone on every single profile page would implicitly cast the site as an inherently dangerous place, and could psychologically engender more fear than perhaps necessary. From a practical perspective, too, the button may not even be that effective, since it could just make it easier for pranksters to cry wolf and jokingly report their friends. Seems to us, then, that by deciding against the panic button, the Facebook crew has simply acknowledged what Gamble claimed; it isn't an expert on child protection. And that's exactly why creating easier, one-click access to CEOP and other real experts seems like the most logical solution. [From: BBC]

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