Facebook's unchecked info & lack of safety come with heavy costs

Updated: 2010-03-10
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Read more on: Facebook   paedophile   panic button   children   Ashleigh Hall   Peter Chapman   murder  
Facebook was accused last night of putting children at risk by snubbing the official paedophile 'panic button'.
Both the Home Secretary and the mother of murdered schoolgirl Ashleigh Hall condemned the website for refusing to implement the system.
Alan Johnson said he could not see 'any good reason' why - unlike other social networking sites - Facebook will not sign up to it.

Murdered: Ashleigh Hall, 17, was befriended by Peter Chapman on the Facebook social networking site. She was raped and murdered before her body was dumped next to a farmer's field
And 17-year-old Ashleigh's mother Andrea Hall said sites such as Facebook, which has five million British teenage users, 'can never do too much' to protect the vulnerable.
The panic button allows children who fear they are being targeted by an online paedophile to receive expert advice at the click of a button - and, crucially, their complaints can then be investigated by the police.
Last night it also emerged that human rights laws are stopping the Government from implementing powers to force sex offenders to disclose their online identities.
The developments came after revelations of how Ashleigh was killed and dumped in a ditch by serial rapist Peter Chapman - who was supposedly under police supervision.

Safety net: The panic button as seen on other sites

The pair met on Facebook, where Chapman had posed as a handsome, bare-chested young boy to lure Ashleigh into his trap.
Yesterday, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which set up the panic button, revealed there were 115 cases last year where children believed they were being groomed on Facebook.
But because Facebook has no link to the CEOP panic button, frightened children wanting to contact the body - which is run by police officers - are forced to leave the site.
They must log on to another site which does have the button, and fill in a form explaining they fear they have been targeted by a paedophile on Facebook.
CEOP's then staff assess the risk they are under and can call in police to investigate.
The number of arrests attributed to CEOP work last year was 267.
The body's chief executive, Jim Gamble, said Facebook's refusal to implement the panic button was 'just not good enough'.
Facebook claims it has its own warning system, and that including the 'ClickCEOP' panic button as well would become confusing. It says its staff would alert the police if a child complained of being groomed.

Condemnation: Ashleigh's mother Andrea Hall, left, and Home Secretary Alan Johnson have both attacked Facebook for refusing to implement the paedophile 'panic button'
However, the company will not disclose how many times the authorities have been notified.

Mr Gamble said Facebook's argument did not 'hold water'.

He was supported by the Home Secretary, who urged Facebook to agree at once to join the scheme.
Mr Johnson told the Mail: ' Hundreds of websites are already signed up to CEOP's report abuse button that enables young people to seek help if they think they are in danger online.
'I don't see any good reason why major sites wouldn't want to offer the same option to help protect younger users.
'That is why I want Facebook and other providers of sites who haven't signed up yet to do so.'
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'Until Facebook acts on this, its protestations that it cares passionately about the safety of people who use its site will look like empty words.
'Facebook urgently needs to take this clear, simple and practical step.'

Alter-ego: Chapman used a picture of a good-looking teenager to entice his victim

Ashleigh's mother Mrs Hall, 39, said: 'Anything that can be done should be done to stop these monsters. Perhaps you will never stop people creating false profiles and posting bogus pictures but every little helps.
'No stone should be left unturned. I just can't see any reason why Facebook haven't installed this panic button.
'It acts as a deterrent because predators feel that other users are watching them. It also gives those people who feel threatened, particularly vulnerable young children, an easy way of reporting it.
'Social networking sites have a responsibility. They can never do too much to protect their users.'
Mrs Hall also branded Chapman, who was jailed for at least 35 years on Monday, 'inhuman' and said the authorities should reveal where sex offenders live.

She said: 'He took my daughter. He shouldn't be allowed human rights; he's not human, is he?
'He murdered my daughter. She was 17 and he knew exactly what he was doing and there was no remorse whatsoever.'
SOURCE: Daily Mail
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