Young British Facebook users get new application linking to online child safety program

By Jennifer Quinn, AP
Monday, July 12, 2010

UK Facebook users get link to child safety program

LONDON — A British child protection agency launched a Facebook application on Monday that it said will help teenagers report abuse and grooming online.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center’s application, called “ClickCEOP,” gives kids a way to report instances “of suspected grooming or inappropriate sexual behavior,” the organization said in a news release.

It’s the only application of its kind on the social networking site, and is aimed at British Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 18. An advertisement urging them to add the application will appear on the home pages of the network’s teenage users in the U.K., the center said. It is government funded and affiliated with the British Serious Organized Crimes Agency.

The child protection agency’s one-of-a-kind application is for British kids, but spokeswoman Vicky Gillings said the center wouldn’t ignore harassment reported by teenagers in other countries. The center works with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among others, she said.

To activate the application, a user can go to the center’s Facebook page and find the “ClickCEOP” link. Adding the application puts a tab at the top of their profile page, alongside others which direct visitors to the user’s personal information and photographs, for example. The user also can add a “ClickCEOP” bookmark to sit on the side of their home page.

The application is not a so-called “panic button,” which would immediately connect a user with authorities, the agency said. But clicking on it brings users through to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center’s website, where they can report the behavior.

Users also can click through to Facebook’s own safety page, which gives instructions on what to do when unwanted or harassing messages are received.

Calls for Facebook to install a prominent link to the center’s site — which already appears on sites like MSN Live Messenger in the U.K. and AOL Bebo — intensified following the kidnap, rape and murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall. The man convicted of killing her used a fake Facebook identity to befriend her online.

“Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the ClickCEOP button is well documented,” Jim Gamble, the agency’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Today, however, is a good day for child protection. 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.”

Facebook spokeswoman Sophy Silver said the application is an initiative of the child protection agency rather than the social networking site, though they assisted with some technical details.

“There are organizations in other markets that might want to do something like this, and there’s nothing to stop them from doing that,” Silver said, adding that safety is a priority for the company. “If we don’t have a safe platform … they wouldn’t use Facebook. We wouldn’t be the platform we are today.”

will not be displayed