Facebook users… Don’t Panic!

from cogdogblog's Flickr photostream under Creative Commons

You might have noticed in the news today, Facebook have agreed to make the ClickCEOP app available to their users. This app, often referred to in the media as a “Panic Button” gives concerned Facebook users a place where they can go to get help and advice related to many aspects of online safety.
CEOP (the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) encourages Facebook users aged between 13 and 18 to add a ClickCEOP tab to their profile, the tab contains a link through to the CEOP Abuse Reporting site. This site is aimed at providing direct links to report or get advice on cyberbullying, hacking (by this they mean account takeover), viruses, mobile problems, harmful content or inappropriate or unwanted sexual behaviour.
While the ClickCEOP app will not be installed by default into every teenager’s profile, Facebook have stated in this interview that they will support the app with a site-wide awareness campaign aimed at their younger users and the app itself is clearly designed to spread by word of mouth and recommendation.
It is great to see Facebook taking the safety of their more vulnerable users more seriously. Education and awareness are powerful tools against online threats, hopefully as people notice their friends adding this app to their profile pages it will rapidly become almost a default installation.
The reason why predators are so successful on social networks and online in general, is because they work diligently to allay any suspicions or fears that their victim my feel. They use stolen photographs, misappropriated identities and outright lies to appear to be something they are not. For some commentators, this is the reason the Panic Button may not be as effective as could be hoped. But surely something is better than nothing at all?
One argument that says that the simple presence of the button will help to raise awareness and help to raise the suspicion level of the more vulnerable. It could also be the case that repeat offending will be uncovered more rapidly if even one potential victim sounds the alarm.
Unfortunately an alternative outcome is that this functionality could drive bullies and predators into more devious tactics, for example the creation of “use once and destroy” alter-egos making finding and stopping them all the more complicated.
At the very least for the younger or more vulnerable there should be no more confusion about where to go or what to do when they feel somehow targeted. One of the aggravating factors when it comes to online crime, is the absence of any central reporting facility. For Facebook users this small part of the problem, at least, is now solved.