Posts Tagged ‘cyber-stalking’

Should Facebook Have a Panic Button?

When thinking about social networking sites and security issues, I always remember the unfortunate cases of girls that would meet guys online (or vice-versa), agree to meet with them in real life, and then go missing until their lifeless bodies get found days later. Tragic and scary, to say the least!

A couple of months ago, a 17-year old British student told her mother she was spending the night at a friend’s house and instead made plans to meet with a boy she met on Facebook. Unfortunately, the young girl never returned home, as  her teenage “date” turned out to be a 32-year old sex offender, who raped and murdered her. The monster (who goes by the name Peter Chapman) eventually confessed and was jailed for life in March this year.

In the wake of poor girl’s murder, her family was joined by British child-protection advocates in demanding that Facebook install a so-called panic button on its pages that would enable people to access information about Internet safety topics such as cyber-stalking and sexual abuse. “It’s like a burglar alarm on your house: It tells anyone coming into that environment to engage with you that you’re protected”, said Jim Gamble, the head of Britain’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center. According to a recent Times article, MySpace and Bebo already have panic buttons. So why isn’t Facebook following in their steps?

           

Facebook had previously said it would not install a “panic button” on its main pages, but would develop its existing system and would install links to organizations including CEOP on its reporting pages. Last week, Mr. Gamble announced the agency had received 252 complaints about Facebook during the first three months of the year-with 40 % of them about the potential grooming of children. Although Facebook has maintained that its abuse-reporting system is strong enough, the recent UK developments on the site’s existing system will allow members to report abuse directly to the CEOP instead of through Facebook’s internal system. In other words, when British Facebook users click on “Report/Block” person tab, a pop-up box will appear providing a link to the CEOP website.

“If the proposal is that we should put the button on every single page of the website, we’re quite clear that that isn’t the quick-fix solution that will actually make users of Facebook safer than they are today”, says Richard Allan, director of European public policy for Facebook. However, in the words of Mr. Gamble, “ if you’re going to operate a business that encourages people to frequent your public place so that you can advertise to them, then let’s look after them while they’re there”.

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As the saga continues, Facebook spokeswoman Debbie Frost said that the company will be donating ad space worth $7.7 million to cyber-safety groups over the next two years. Regardless of the initiatives taken both by the social networking sites and cyber-stalker protection, people first need to be EDUCATED about online safety. Raising awareness amongst Internet-users and ensuring that the safety lessons learned in real life be applied online is an absolute MUST and the initial step to over-coming and avoid tragic situations.