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Facebook adds safety alarm for kids

The child-protection authority CEOP has launched the online safety application after many months of discussions with the social-networking site
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

Social-networking site Facebook and UK child-protection authority CEOP have launched a panic-button app, after months of negotiations.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said on Monday that it will launch an app that teenagers can use to report suspected online grooming and inappropriate behaviour, as well as to access safety information.

Users can add the app, ClickCEOP, to their profile page, where the button will reside in a tab. Young Facebook users can also bookmark the app, and add a badge and news feed, a CEOP spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Monday.

The app will be backed by a new CEOP Facebook page, which seeks to be interactive, said the organisation. The organisation has been negotiating with Facebook for many months, said the spokesperson, who added that CEOP would like a panic button as default on children's profile pages.

"We've been working with Facebook for quite a while to announce the app," said the spokesperson. "It's a step in the right direction, but it's not what we're calling for. This isn't the end of the road — the conversation is ongoing."

CEOP is launching a Facebook advertising campaign on Tuesday to publicise the app, using10 million on-site advertising page impressions donated by Facebook, the spokesperson added.

A Facebook spokesperson told ZDNet UK that the cost of CEOP advertising packages was still under negotiation, but that the cost of the ad campaign would be met from £5m safety funding announced in April.

At the time, Facebook said it disagreed with the concept of a panic button to report abuse. The spokesperson said on Monday that Facebook's position had not changed regarding the issue of panic button.

"This is not a concession or a u-turn," said the Facebook spokesperson. "What CEOP has done today is no different to what anyone can do on the site. Anyone can develop an app. It's not a panic button as such." Facebook is not currently discussing the option of a default panic button for young users, according to the spokesperson.

CEOP developed the app through a UK-based company called the iPlatform, said the Facebook spokesperson. "It's an innovative way of enabling kids to be safe online," the spokesperson said.

CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble said in a statement that CEOP's discussions with Facebook over the panic button had been "well documented".

"Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the ClickCEOP button is well documented — today, however, is a good day for child protection," said Gamble. "By adding this application, Facebook users will have direct access to all the services that sit behind our ClickCEOP button which should provide reassurance to every parent with teenagers on the site."

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