The Home Office has half-heartedly claimed victory in its effort to strong-arm Facebook into publishing a child protection "panic button" on its users' profiles. In fact, the government has been given an embarrassing lesson in rationality by the leading social network. Following a meeting with Facebook's regulation staff on …
I was looking forward to the "Panic Button" being abused to the point that the uk.gov asks for it to be removed.
"My mate looked at me funny"
"He left a dirty plate in the kitchen" etc
I was also hoping for it to be a huge sarcastic button taking up 50% of the screen.
Why the chuff should facebook be ordered to do something like this is beyond me. Surelly uk.gov should offer a proxy server service to those vunerable folks that sticks a panic button on the top of EVERY website they go to (along the lines of clicking a link on google images), but that would involve them doing some work that would go to waste when no one used it rather than ordering a business to do unneccessary work for free.
I'm with Facebook
Having such a button on every single page is pretty typical of this government's attitude. The nanny state knows everything and is always right. Overkill, lack of common sense, etc.
It's a bit like walking around almost anywhere in California where there are wonderful signs on pretty much every public building warning that the building contains substances known to the State of California to cause cancer. After a while you just tune them out as irrelevant, and the same goes for most of the goverment's initiatives. We all laugh or are horrified at some the stupid health and safety regs, which means that the ones we really should take seriously get lost in the noise.
So, to Facebook I say: Just Say NO.
It's been known as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" for at least several centuries... Shame that UK.gov cannot learn this simple story.
As the Internet itself cannot harm you,
neither can it protect you.
i like that ^^
now to be quoted all over the webz
"More prescient questions over police inaction in response to Peter Chapman's failure to update the sex offenders' register when he moved house were largely obscured by the storm - a politically convenient side-effect for Johnson."
Perhaps demanding a giant "Do your fucking jobs properly" button be installed on the Home Office website may prevent future tragedies such as the young Ashleigh Hall befell?
Might even drive some traffic to uk.gov - and then their "performance metric" of traffic seen will be excellent...
Have to support Facebook on this one, however, of much deeper concern is their recent change to how privacy settings are implemented - now if CEOP pressured them to make more private settings the4 default with the users action required to decrease them i'd support that wholeheartedly.
Facebook argue on the one hand that users are well able to change their own settings, but on the other they make the default settings wide open (bringing in loads of revenue from Google etc.). Surely if their users are able to change their settings then they can allow them to set them to less secure? The fact is that they know fine well that the largest block of users will leave their settings at default and they therefore make the default that which gives them the mosst revenu rather than making users the most secure.
CEOP and the government have been barking up entirely the wrong tree!
All about the money, really
If you think that any "social networking" site would put the privacy (or protection) of their users over the profit potential, you are sadly mistaken. The only time this happens is when there is pressure from some other group - financial, media, or legal, in that order of high to low power.
The very nature of "social networking" means that if it is not open to searching and viewing - it dies.
nice summary of what the conversation probably sounded like
good to see
El Reg doing what no other media outlet seems to be willing to do; providing calm, measured and balanced reporting.
Calm, measured and balanced reporting?
Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later!
Expand the restrictions
If sex offenders aren't permitted to hang around schools can we not ban them from using the internet as well?
The failings that led up to this murder are not with the internet, but as others have mentioned, the system which governs these convisted sex attackers. Yet again another example of how our modern society teaches us to dodge our reponsibility for our failings and attempts to drop it on someone else's lap.
might as well send them to Gumtanmo then...
Because you can't ban someone from using the Internet... it's against their 'human rights', no?
If someone is convicted and served a sentence, then the conviction is "spent". The person has supposedly paid their debt to society.
However, thanks to Dail Fail mentality and reporting, the media have decided that certain people should never be allowed to get away from what they did, to move on and, heaven forbid, maybe become a citizen again.
Someone who murders whilst drunk behind the wheel will get scant press interest at the time of the offence and the trial - unless it's a child or OAP that gets run over (or some other person for whom the media can fire the sympathy button at). Once sentence has been served, scant press coverage will continue.
Compare that to a person who has viewed an image of an underage person in a sexually provocative pose on their PC and has subsequently been caught. The media feeding frenzy is disproportionate to the crime.
The latter person has many restrictions placed on them, including barring them from an ever growing number of jobs (all thoe requireing an eCRB) and volunteering oppurtunities, the former has no such restrictions.
convictions not spent till years after
for example, i had to go to court for traffic stuff. got convicted, but not banned or anything however............... that conviction wasn't spent till 2.5 years after then i could apply for jobs etc without mentioning it.
it's covered in the rehabilitation of offenders act 1974
@AC - Not saying your wrong but I find the human right argument unbalanced. The US Justice system has orders where convicted people can't use computers usually due to hacking type offenses.
@EvilGav - Completely understand what your saying but is it wrong to just consider them as criminals and not as people with mental health issues instead. They can serve their time and pay their dues but when back in society are they themselves not fighting an internal battle not to look at pics and such like again? When in prison is there any type of rehabilition that helps with their 'addiction'?
That's all it is. CEOP want to be seen to be attached to large organisations like Facebook et al so they can grab more power and more budget. End of.
It makes me want to kill ppl. Well, Alan Johnson...
If I could upvote that twice, I would, just for it having introduced the word 'mongle' into my vocabulary.
Also because googling it sent me straight to the urban dictionary site, which listed it as :
"MONGLE (mon-gul) der. english MANGLE, v. - 1. To molest something in a deviant or sexual manner. 2. A darker or more morbid form of molestation. 3. Molestation for more than sexual reasons."
Rather tastefully topped off with the ad :
"buy mongle mugs, tshirts and magnets"
"Shock horror, I'm pretty sure responsible parents should have been doing that since the internet went main stream."
Utterly specious. Sadly, not everybody has the same genius intellect and massive powers of foresight that you do...some people are thick as shit so this advice may well be heeded quite nicely...if it saves one or two people from being horribly murdered, it is good. I am guessing you're of the school that says that not wearing short skirts and sexy underwear is OBVIOUS to any women who doesn't want to get raped.
"Although if people have seen pictures of all involved they may get to wondering "why would a guy who looked like that be interested in a girl like that?""
Hilarious. Perhaps you can find some more murder victims and assess their shagability on a scale of 1 - 10? Check out Fred West's victims and pontificate on their looks!
"Also seriously, did you see the mother on the TV? Kid didnt' stand a chance"
Again, good for you for being so clever. She certainly got what she deserved didn't she? Her kid was murdered in a horrific way! That'll teach her to be so STUPID!
You're evidently from the "if it saves just one *insert saved group*" camp.
Sorry to say you don't need foresight to teach your loved ones to be careful, and I don't see what teaching people to inform others when they're meeting people that they've never met what they're going and what they're doing has to do with woman wearing short skirts, but I'm sure you think you were making a clever point.
I think in reference to Fred West you proved my point, these people prey on people with self esteem issues (often brought on by a variety of real life failings in upbringing and education.) Hint if you're messed up and want to do something terrible select an unattractive person with confidence problems.
I also dont' see how deserving it has anything to do with it not being much of a suprise due to not being given correct guidance by the adults around her.
You seem to make a lot of assumptions, and selectively quote things, which is fine, but a bit weak to be honest.
In the end a panic button is a waste of time because it wont save the people at risk, simply make people feel cuddly.
But hey whatever, enjoy your button, and your attempts at proving points that didn't have much to do with the origonal text. Shame I lost all my up votes for it, last time I checked it was up 12
"In the days that followed, however, Andrea Hall was drawn into the campaign to spread the panic button, arguing that social networks could "never do too much" to protect users.
It's a statement that nobody could reasonably dispute."
Well I'd bloody well dispute it, what sort of ignorant tosh is this? It's bad enough that some hard-of-thinking woman is spouting nonsense, but when an El Reg writer is happy to agree with it I start to reach for the puke bucket.
When are people going to learn, children are perfectly safe from physical attack on the internet because they are not in the physical presence of the potential abuser. The fact that eventually they become so is no different from having exchanged text messages, made a phone call or even written letters to organise a meeting. Sad though it is, Ashleigh Hall made a bad decision and paid for it (yes I know her killer should not have been able to contact her and meet her), in the same way that a local 16 year old was run over by a car when he road his bike without lights on the wrong side of the road in the dark. He did something stupid even though he knew the risks, so did this girl.
FFS people, just use your brains before opening mouths or deploying the typing fingers!
Yes, I know, I've taken the coward's way out and gone AC. Tough!
Re: Oh, FFS.....!
I'm agreeing with Andrea Hall's general point, which seems to me almost a truism. The statement under consideration is:
'Social networks can never do too much to protect users.'
Implicit in that is that the things they are hypothetically doing are protecting users. That would seem to most reasonable people a good thing. It follows that safety measures that don't protect aren't necessarily, which is the point.
Do try to calm down and heed your own advice.
..you callthis woman hard of thinking.
Well lets see, her daughter has been murdered, then she's had months of waiting for arrest and trial, then sat through gruesum details about her daughter rape and murder. Then to top it all the media and goverment want her to spout some words of wisdom. Then to top it all, insensitive c**ts decide to lecture her on what seh did wrong.
Personally I think everyone else involved is hard of thinking, not her.
Chris, I'm not AC above but you're still wrong.
'Social networks can never do too much to protect users.' is very different from 'Social networks should always do their best to protect users'. While the latter is hardly disputable, the former opens the door to all kinds of abuse. Yes, social networks definitely _can_ do too much to protect their users. For example they could cross-correlate your activities on their website (keywords, contacts, ...), deploy tracking cookies, they could try and gather informations on your system (browsing history, suspicious programs or files,...) and ban users deemed "risky" (Shown any interest in non-gov-endorsed groups? Stated that The Killers are your fave band? You're "friends" with both fat old men and young ladies? Browsed pr0n recently? Installed emule? Got any pics of your daugther in her bathing suit? No Facebook for you sir.). Optionnally they could pass all this useful info on potentially dangerous people to the police, together with IP. All that could theoretically protect the users (well, the remaining ones). Would that be enough for you to consider "too much"? I have little doubt about that. See, they _can_ do too much to protect their users.
So, implicit in that statement is also:
Monitor everything I type so I cannot say something to encourage a possible predator
Block everything I show so I cannot show something to encourage a possible predator
Easiest case - block me from everyone else, so I cannot do something to encourage a possible predator.
I feel this is an argument with the red herring fallacy of appeal to fear.
To follow that thinking, then social networks shouldn't exist at all becouse by their very nature they add risk into peoples lives (if said person uses them without having common sense which we have tried to drum into people for decades, from news paper confidentials, to the man turning up to check your boiler, to social networking sites).
What help could a button that you press if you think you are being taken advantage of give?
The whole point is that if you feel you are being taken advantage of you'll move on without a second thought, and if you don't think you're being taken advantage of (and you havn't been correctly taught how to deal with risk) then you are likely to arrange to do something unwise (like meet someone you've never met, somewhere you don't know, without telling people what you intend to do.)
A button will do nothing to help, parents taking proper responsibility for teaching their children fundemental basics for safety is the quintessential element for greatly reducing the risks. A button in fact is counter productive as parents, media, teachers, government, quangos, and a long list of others shall wrongly believe that due to this magical silver bullet children are once again safe.
This is a lie. The only thing that will make children safe is education.
In the end it is a persons responsibility too look after themselves, not a web site, not the government, not the police, but the individual. Anything else is to shirk your responsiblity as a human being.
From the original AC....
..who is probably feeling a bit guilty that he missed the fact that the person I moaned about was actually Ashleigh's mother, for some reason the brain just didn't connect the two surnames even though they were the same. I'd have been more gentle if the synapses had fired in the right order.
The thing that really went wrong here was the failure of the police in various places to ensure that the murderer's previous restrictions were correctly applied. No amount of education and adding of buttons to anything is going to make such omissions unimportant. Having the police spend 2/3 of their time on paperwork seems a good way to ensure they're unable to oversee such things properly, adding more bureaucracy to their tasks will just make it worse.
I've personally known 4 people under the age of 20 who have died in the last 3 years, 3 of them were murdered under extremely gruesome circumstances through no fault of their own beyond bad luck and inexperience. I'm certainly not insensitive to the suffering of their parents, families and friends. I have my own children of a similar age, what I tell them is that they need to think carefully and act sensibly and that I won't mind what they do as long as they let me know enough details of what, who and where so that I can decide for myself whether they're opening themselves up to excessive risk.
Ultimately as a parent you can't protect your children against everything, and it's an essential part of growing up to learn to recognise and avoid potential threats to oneself. One of those threats is the expansion of state surveillance and control without cease, but of course there are reasons for some surveillance being necessary on people who have already demonstrated their penchant for causing trouble.
Have I got an answer that squares the circle and causes birds to sing and rabbits to smile? Nope, I haven't, but please no more comments about it being impossible to do too much about a problem with some internet-delivered service.
I can't believe...
...I am almost saying "think of the children".
Children are children. Children are stupid, inexperienced morons with limited common sense.
As far as I am concerned, treating them like adults at a young age is folly. Trusting them after educating them is folly. What is required is for a software engineer (and GASP a human computer interface expert) to come up with a viable and simple way to manage children's access to content on the web.
I don't understand how brats can be left online with no parental supervision when parents are loathe to let children out of their vision when wondering around outside. While the risks are small (both inside the house and out), they are present. Parents need to take responsibility for their brat's safety...not the state. Parents need decent software (not for geeks, but for people who are quite possibly thick as shit and need as simple an interface as possible!).
There are a lot of engineer attitudes on this board waffling about how people should have known better. Judging everybody by your standards won't fix the problem.
Attempting to fix a social problem with a technical solution is like trying to protect a sand castle against the incoming tide with a plastic spade.
There is a perfect way of managing a childs access to resources, it's called a parental figure.
"His organisation wants to be the "central portal for helping keep children safe online". "
So a tragic death is simply something to exploit for a bureaucrat to build his empire bigger?
A Bigger Empire
Reverend Gamble (for it is he) has much work still to do. In this climate of paedohysteria his organization has prospered (and continues to do so). CEOP can be found lurking (actively) behind most of the 'bad law' around sexual matters to have emerged from NuLabour's Central Politburo in the past thirteen years or so - everything from somehow redefining a 'child' as aged 17 when 'indecently' pictured -despite the UK's age of consent being 16 for boys and girls - to being one of the most vociferous (and unapologetically punitive) of those lobbying for the new laws against 'cartoon porn' - a law they recently got on to the statutes here in the UK.
Nulabour (and successive craven Home Secretarys) have been more than generous with taxpayers money towards Mr Gamble and his congregation, falling over themselves to the tune of £5million (and rising) a year. Private 'stakeholders' like Microsoft, Visa and many other well-known brands also line CEOP's coffers handsomely on an annual basis. Added to this are the profits CEOP makes from it's lucrative sideline hosting lectures, talks and presentations to 'stakeholders' in the child protection industry and public sector bodies like education (events at which it can also flog its literature at a satisfyingly premium price).
His Holiness has done well out of the paedoscare - and looks set to do even better as yet another bunch of spineless politicians ready themselves to occupy government here in the UK. It must be very satisfying being at the head of a quango nobody dare take issue with, nobody dare question, nobody demand explanations or proof from. Mr Gambles goes on TV or radio, spouts off his well-rehearsed hyperbole and - amazingly - nobody ever dares to take his increasingly surreal claims to task.
I'll bet he just can't believe his luck - at this rate, luck that shows no sign whatsoever of running out any time soon.
Update for today
" the Boy Who Cried Wolf" is to be republished in a new updated 4 - volume set...
Vol 1. The Minister Who Cried Terrorist
Vol 2. The Minister Who Cried Paedophile
Vol 3. The Minister Who Cried Climate Change
Vol 4. TBA
I find it beyond logic, why the mobile phone operators have not yet implemented a big red panic button. Real life is a dangerous place and we can never do too much to protect our children.
Yay for knee-jerk legislation
You know it's coming - any social networking site will be obliged by law to have panic buttons, and their very presence will be 'proof' that the internet is a dangerous place.
Cue 'good' censorship of the web (like Australia has) rather than 'bad' censorship (like China has) because it's in our own best interests.
I'm afraid it's very likely to happen as none of the parties likely to be anywhere near power come May have the requisite balls to say 'wait a minute'....
Yep, firmly behind facebook here. In spite of many of my so called adult friends playing at running cafes or farms or wtf-ever, Facebook is stil the most grown-up of all the social networking dross. It came out of a university, it is aimed at those of us who went to university or are otherwise well-traveled and educated and are more likely to have friends who ended up in distant places. This is how I use it and it works well.
It is not intended for teenages to arrange bing-drinking sessions or upload happy-slapping videos. If you are using an adult's network, you must behave like an adult, which means excercising proper care and responisibility for your own safety.
"Freedom does not just consist of the nice bits." - Lord Vetinari.
There's a meme in here somewhere...
you may have read in the press in the last few days the case of Joshua Bacon, The 17year old who killed his daughter, Caitlyn Smith aged 7 weeks old. He violently shook her to death and pushed her head into the mattress of the bed in hospital in a so called “momentary of loss of temper”.
I am a close family friend of Caitlyn Smiths mother, I have known Caitlyns grandfather since we were 4 or 5 years old.
Since Joshua Bacon was found guilty and now held on remand until sentencing next month his family and friends have been abusing Danielle Smith via facebook ever since. They have made several statements to the affect that they were going to cause her serious harm. ove even sayis they were going to kill her.
Using the facilities in place on facebook, these posts were reported to and blocked by facebook very promptly. I don't believe their is any need for any further panic buttons.
The youth who made the threat lives in Merseyside so the matter was referred to Merseyside police and they were not interested in pursuing the matter at all. Lancashire police needed to take her laptop off her as evidence to be able to pursue the matter, why? i don't know, as the abuse was visible from any computer. but as she was advised that very little can be done their is very little point.
What the government need to do if anything is make the police take accusations more serious.
there are still a few threats in place for example
"Joel Groves:- guna proper seriouse hurt danielle smith the little dirty slut......always ere josh ur cuz" (18:09 wed)
can be viewed here via http://tinyurl.com/ybdp9e2
What you need to remember is that Danielle is a 17 year old girl whos child was taken from her at 7 weeks old via the hands of Joshua Bacon and still gets abuse. Facebook do what they can, but the police are so poor at dealing with these so called "lesser crimes" its is not a surprise how the yoof of today are as feral as they are.
you can see a proper report of the case at
or the daily fail version at
Well said Sir, and condolences for the family's loss.
I am firmly of the opinion that
The police are now part of the problem, not the solution. Too busy chasing government PC targets to actually do any real policing.
Won't tackle anti social behaviour. Want to challenge ASBO-Joe as he traches your car? Fine, but you'll be the one getting arrested. Defending yourself in your own home? Fine, but you'll get arrested.
Policing by consent? What a joke.
Government needs to give the powers back to the police in terms of tackling crime at the local level, stop with the bullshit targets (let the locals hold them accountable). Police need to step up to the plate and actually Police.
You can never do too much to protect children?
Except lock them in a cellar for 18 years?
The most common threats to children come from someone they already know.
That was popular in Austria a while back.... but doesnt quite solve *all* the problems
It just doesn't make sense
A "Panic Button"?
The inference is that the evil people using Facebook can somehow sneak up on you at your computerm and the only chance of escape is a frantic mouse-click, before you are dragged head-first through the monitor as if it were a "Doctor Who" episode.
I know I'm older than some of these nutjobs. Clearly I have some terrible mental flaw which excludes me from the political arena. Perhaps, rather than a single-minded pursuit of political power, to the exclusion of all knowledge of reality, I had one of these things called a "Real Life".
More likely, I just run a good simulation on this machine.
This type of tragic killing will...
...undoubtedly happen again for the simple fact that teens typically dont follow the news, or indeed any kind of current affairs story. They simply aren't in that mindset to learn about things like this, or if they do hear about it from their mates or whoever, it is quickly ignored/forgotten.
Most of them in the UK are too busy listening to the latest pop band, watching E4 crap or spouting off to their mates about utter triviality. Who fancies who, whens the next dance TV programme coming on, etc ad nauseum.
So in this regard I see it as a good thing having something put up on Facebook simply to reach teens / pre-teens, but not this stupid panic button idea.
> Some might argue such a highly-visible feature could send the wrong message to parents - that the web is a safe, monitored enviroment for children.
I think you've got to be an idiot to think that putting up something like this will make parents MORE apathetic to the risks, some are pretty clueless to begin with otherwise Ashley would never have been murdered. Its the responsibility of the parents to get across that dangerous perverts operate on the Internet, and because they aren't doing it, the next best thing must surely be something presented on their screens!
Some people in the comments have mentioned that this can happen equally on mobile networks or via simple email, or by snailmail letter as if any attack on the Internet was an attack on their person. I ask them how? The point of facebook is to join people together, it does so by presenting people, including pedos, with clear images of their 'targets' and means to contact them. Mobile phones dont, unless pedos go out and guess childrens phone numbers? I don't understand what you mean.
or, perhaps ceop, instead of posturing for effect, could actually use some of the govmt money for a reasonable use, and pay facebook for banner ads targeted at UK users under 18. (you know facebook would be able to make this distinction)
A pig and his trough
Of course Gamble wants millions of free advertising hits on his panic button to help convince the public that funding the enormous trough for his snout is a good idea.
In case none here know...
...the Law in the UK classes 16 and 17 year olds as children unless married. I remember being really pissed off about this when I was commuting to London daily as a 17 year old, and paying tax, and doing other things legally (including ones the Govt. taxed).
Why are there no Facebook groups *against* the button?
There are several pro-button groups but no anti-button, pro-education groups?
It'll take a well worded intro and group description to promote it, but perhaps someone from El Reg should step up to the plate and write such an opening gambit?
- Twitter: La la la, we have not heard of any NUDE JLaw, Upton SELFIES
- China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
- Apple to devs: NO slurping users' HEALTH for sale to Dark Powers
- Is that a 64-bit ARM Warrior in your pocket? No, it's MIPS64
- Apple 'fesses up: Rejected from the App Store, dev? THIS is why