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Fury at Facebook ‘panic button’ snub

A Northern Ireland man charged with policing the internet has warned more vulnerable young people could die if social networking sites don’t do more to protect their users from predatory paedophiles and murderers.

Jim Gamble, head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, launched a scathing attack on Facebook, the UK’s most popular social networking site, over its refusal to install a panic button that would give anyone at risk immediate access to police help.

“The fact that sites are not adopting it to me is beyond logic,” Mr Gamble said.

“I don’t understand it, I don’t see the rationale and we need to be challenging them. They need to be meeting me in public to discuss this so that parents can see that the arguments they are putting forward are simple red herrings. Not good enough.”

His hard hitting comments come after Peter Chapman’s conviction this week, for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall in Co Durham last October.

The 33-year-old double rapist was able to groom his teenage victim through a Facebook profile where he posed as a young boy before eventually persuading her to meet.

Mr Gamble believes the CEOP panic button giving site users an opportunity to report abuse, bullying, illegal or inappropriate activity could help prevent a repeat of the brutal attack.

He said: “We have been asking social networking providers for too long to do the right thing.

“Since November 2009 when we launched the button in AOL Bebo, we have carried out careful analysis to look at varying sites who haven’t adopted our service and the trends are worrying.

“267 reports were received about activity in Facebook for instance during 2009, of which 43% were cases of suspected grooming. However, 81% of those reports were made by people having to go to other sites to make the report.,” he said. “There is no legitimate reason for not placing it on a site.”

In a statement Facebook said: “We are confident that the CEOP button is an excellent solution for sites that have not invested in as robust a reporting infrastructure as Facebook has in place and one we continue to improve.”

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