back to article Facebook stands up to UK.gov's cyberbullying

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 …

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      group

      Say no to the button

      1. PirateSlayer

        :D

        Says A/C to the button! I think we may have found your problem and reason for a lack of group!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why are there no Facebook groups *against* the button?

      Because people smart enough to know that the button is ineffectual bullshit (hint: everyone with an IQ over 75) are also smart enough to know that Facebook groups are ineffectual bullshit. QED.

  1. EddieD

    A nice end to the week...

    The best summation of the hysterical situation after the tragedy, and how it's being cynically manipulated by both the government and the media, that I've read.

    Have a nice weekend

  2. mrmark1977

    Typical Labour

    This is just typical labour goons, reacting to media ideas, instead of using logic.

    It's just the same as when the media starts saying 'we need airport scanners', (even though they are useless if a terrorist shoves a bomb up his butt), and then Gordon comes on tv grinning, saying we need these scanners.

    Rationality is what labour need, and is what they're seriously short of. Just look at when Alan Johnson sacked Prof. Nutt, claiming he was trying to change policy, when all he was doing, was stating facts that made Labour's opinions on drugs look stupid.

    So again, we have another case of government doing something without thinking about it, not using reason. They know there's a problem that kids can be tricked on social network sites...and they've heard about this new 'panic button' - I know - we'll force facebook to have a panic button, problem solved!

    No Gordon, not problem solved. If a kid is suspecting someone is not who they say, they don't need a red button to press and run off. They can report the user as per normal.

    This service will just be abused if facebook are forced to do it, because people will just log in under a fake profile and press the panic button on people whom aren't a problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      not forgetting

      "This service will just be abused if facebook are forced to do it, because people will just log in under a fake profile and press the panic button on people whom aren't a problem."

      not forgetting to log in via a proxy server first... you know how the gubbermint like to think an ip address is a fingerprint

  3. The Other Steve

    Darwin

    Someone who is stupid enough to go and physically hook up with someone they met over the internet, and in doing so place themselves in a situation where that person can snatch them and do them harm would have found a way to remove themselves from the gene pool sooner or later.

    Sad, but true.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Button

    I believe that the profile page of every UK member of Facebook should have a prominent Home Office button. Hovering over the button would reveal a "what's this?" link where its purpose is explained:

    The Home Office Button located on your Profile Page <insert side-floating screenshot with highlights> is a new feature of Facebook for UK members. It is there for your safety. If you suspect that someone on Facebook is a politician or senior civil servant please click the Home Office Button immediately. The Home Office is an anti-democratic organisation trying to destroy your way of life. Please be vigilant, and remember even friends and family may be Home Office members or sympathisers, or may associate with Home Office members or sympathisers. (That includes you if you know them and don't raise the alert.)

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Better solution

      Everyone friends Alan Johnson (or whichever jerk is left in charge of the Home Office next). Then the Home Secretary can look after them when they go online.

      If anyone gets hurt in any way, it will be Alan's fault and no one will want to play Farmville with him ever again.

      More seriously - what is it with this country and self-appointed net guardians who seem to exist completely outside of the legal framework? We've already got the Internet Watch Foundation which appear to have unlimited powers to come over all Mary Whitehouse without the inconvenience of being restrained by any laws, now there's CEOP (which I'd never heard of) trying to nanny us back to the stone age.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Darwin

      Such as Internet dating sites?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    What else can you expect?

    The child 'protection' racket is really to blame here. It puts out the message that *every* stranger, *every* adult, or at least every *man* is a potential danger. That *something* will happen if an adult even looks at a child.

    Children can easily see, though, that most adults are not dangerous. That man in the shop just takes the money and turns to the next customer. That man in the restaurant just wants to take their order. That man over there is just walking down the street. And so it goes. The danger message has, in their eyes, been wrong every other time, so why shouldn't they trust that stranger? Nothing has ever happened in the past.

    If people wanted to really protect children, they would have them get out and meet adults. Have them put in all sorts of situations with adults. That way children would get to know what is and isn't normal when it comes to adults. As it is now, adults, outside of family members and frightened teachers, might as well be creatures from another planet.

    But that would be too scary for the nervous ninny 'it could be a dangerous in theory' types. Yes, anything could be dangerous in theory, but that doesn't mean it is. They, however, have elevated a theory to an actuality. If it could happen, it will happen. The fact that this means that someone will give them money and power is, of course, incidental...

  6. Llanfair
    Alert

    What about the parents?

    Something that is often overlooked is what makes a teenager. Teenagers are people who just discovered puberty and feel all funny about it. They want to see what this new experience is. So, what way than meeting up with the opposite sex? Also at this stage, their brain says "Don't let parents know about it." They go off and then get into trouble. The parents have absolutely no idea on what's going on.

    What I would say is, from about 11 years old, teach then how to be safe on the Internet. Maybe let them find out that the people they "know online" is not who the person really is. CBBC had a decent attempt at getting children to understand the dangers of the Internet with their Newsround special "Caught in the Web".

    The moral of the story is, teach them before they are teenagers about the dangers and what to do. Maybe the only way is to have a friend who you trust to act as a teenage of the opposite sex and get them to chat with the child in question. They will then find out they cannot trust anyone on the Internet and it's better to join the local sports club instead. :)

  7. Daniel B.
    FAIL

    Panic button?

    Really? This sounds as retarded as the "emergency email system" that the Virginia Tech staff toted as a "state-of-the-art" emergency announcement system that saves lives. I wouldn't trust a "webcast" or an e-mail to send life-threatening alerts like "SHOOTER ALERT!"; I wouldn't even think of a crappy 'panic button' to save me from fugly predator pedophiles. The real danger is in frickin' REAL LIFE, which is why you should meet people from the 'net in public places. Ashleigh Hall should've met this "kid" in a public place, and verify he was really the guy she thought he was before accepting to "go home with him".

    It seems like Stupidity was what killed this teen. Big Red buttons are useless unless they're actually there when you're being assaulted.

    1. Poor Coco
      Unhappy

      Um, no.

      "Maybe the only way is to have a friend who you trust to act as a teenage of the opposite sex and get them to chat with the child in question. They will then find out they cannot trust anyone on the Internet and it's better to join the local sports club instead. :)"

      ...or, they could have your friend busted for being a paedo.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Handy the way her death gets the police off the hook?

    And even handier how it has helped Gamble further his case.

    We see a personal tragedy and a policing failure. He sees an *opportunity* to grow his business.

    I've had managers spend a hell of a lot of time on Facebook, but just this once I agree with them. It's total BS.

  9. Big-nosed Pengie

    WTF is a CEOP?

    That is all.

  10. Stuart Halliday
    Megaphone

    Wake up and smell Reality.

    It's a sad fact but over and over again we see in history that we don't prepare ourselves for the worse side of reality making an appearance.

    It took the sinking of the Titanic with the lose of all those people to get the Law changed so that ships would thereafter have to carry enough lifeboats for all the passengers.

    It took the sinking of a Ferry and more loss of life to get £50 of equipment to be fitted to all ferries to tell the Captain that the Bow doors were in fact closed.

    Countless times when aircraft crash and kill people do we then and only then, fit safety equipment or improve it.

    It took the death of this young girl to alert us to the ever present vulnerability that young stupid kids can get themselves in to but think can never happen to them.

    You can't stop bad things happening, but you can reduce the risk.

    Sadly it seems to take our culture several serious wake up calls to do something about any problem we've know about for decades.

    Parents of the present generation need to wake up and learn about the Internet and how it has good points and bad points. I think free classes should be given to parents to inform them.

    The next generation of parents won't have this ignorance problem.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
      Unhappy

      A title is required

      The next generation of parents won't have this ignorance problem

      I hope you're right, but I'm really not that optimistic!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      seriously?

      Sorry you sound like a Sun reader, the modern media is brilliant at presenting tiny tiny minority problems as all encompassing evil that lurks around every corner... The people who call for this kind of thing are the people who buy into the media and their way of spinning a scary story.

      Lets use an example, in 2008, there were around 800 murders in England and Wales. Yup 800 people is a lot and very sad... but wait...

      Our population is around 60 million people, thats 0.0013333333%, tiny miniscule. Sad true, the cases like this poor girl I wager are even lower than that, far far lower... Yet we seem to want to change the world because of it.

      The media and the government need to stop spinning scare tactics to progress themselves, cos sadly too many people buy it. All it does is give more beaurocrats work, and stop people trusting one another. We are responsibie for educating our children, for keeping them safe, there is enough legal backing and systems in place already. Just use some common sense.

      1000 people a year die of diabetes, yet 1 flesh eating bug effects 6 people becomes a "world ending event". Anyone remember that?

  11. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Panic buttons

    A fucking huge one on the Home Office site would be a good start. It should be used to alert people every time whichever reactionary tit is Home Secretary this week or one of the myriad Home Office titettes like Meg Hillier says something stupid.

  12. JohnG Silver badge

    Ashleigh Hall case proves the red button is useless

    As I understand it, Ashleigh Hall and Peter Chapman chatted using MSN. MSN has the red button, so this case proves just how utterly useless the red button really is. It is just self promotion for a useless organisation to acquire more budget.

    Note: CEOP is a good candidate to be disbanded following the election as part of measures to get the public spending deficit down.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What we more urgently need ......

    is a panic button that we can all press to Zap 200000 Volts into Gormless Gordon's big fat arse so he might actually wake up and realise the ship (uk) is sinking !.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Wake the -F- up, people!

    God-Dammit... I'm beginning to think that EVERYONE really needs to be forced to read Orwell's "1984"... again... and, again... and, again. Especially the part where everyone in the totalitarian police-state of "Oceana" is required, by law, to have a two-way information-device in their home... that simply can not be turned-off... so that, everything, that anyone says or does, may be monitored, at absolutely any time... by the "thought-police" ... imposing a constant atmosphere of fear and doubt, and thereby obedience to conformity, in every citizen.

    Does any of this sound familiar..?

  15. Badbob
    Coat

    In the immortal words of Helen Lovejoy....

    Won't somebody please, think of the children!

    Yep, getting my coat as we speak....

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Where's the button!

    I demand the button on this site - there's far too many dodgy people around here and I'd much rather they were dealt with by the police rather than some namby pamby Reg dude.

    A few of you far too shifty and the easier it is for me to make frivolous allegations the better for all the children. Click and burn, click and burn, oh the hours of fan I could have.

  17. Andy Enderby 1

    rules....

    WTF are those parents allowing under 13's doing allowing their brood access to Facebook ? In any event. FB already has rules in place banning such users.

    Then again they also have rules regarding convicted sex offenders using FB....

    So with both potential victims and perps both ignoring the rules perhaps the result is predictable.

  18. A B 3

    Stranger Danger

    I put the biggest blame on the schools. They obviously earn points by teaching kids to use the internet from an early age, but clearly net safety is of no importance.

    You can't blame the internet for a lack of wisdom, it's usually a good idea to take a friend when you are meeting someone you don't know.

  19. tallywhacker

    @Marty

    I work for a police high tech crime unit, and I'd like to offer a few words. We're inundated with complaints about Facebook harassment and it's only very recently that Facebook even pretended to give a shit. Up until a few months ago people would complain using FB's own reporting system and nothing would happen. No response, no acknowledgement and certainly no resolution. They've got better recently, but we still know of offensive groups (as in they're committing a criminal offence, and they're also plain offensive) that were complained about months ago and are still up.

    It wasn't just their public that they were contemptuous of either though - any law enforcement request from outside the US got pretty much ignored unless it was threat-to-life and you were very lucky. Even now, a lot of the time when people contact us to get stuff taken down we advise them to go through Facebook's own reporting procedure. This isn't because we're lazy, it's because the channels we have to go through are so torturous that it's simply unworkable to do it for every item that someone has good reason to want taking down.

    If your friend was getting no joy reporting the offences against her then she might want to phone the force's High Tech unit directly through the switchboard. She'll need to have kept copies of the postings along with the dates etc (there'd be no point in the police approaching FB for them because they'd need to subpoena through the US courts. That'd be a major international operation. Other US-based companies in Facebook's league are much more helpful with this sort of thing, Facebook just seem to enjoy being pricks).

    About the CEOP button, I dunno. Grooming does happen over Facebook - I've seen it. As other people have pointed out here though, the Peter Chapman affair seems to have been a shameful failure to manage a dangerous sex offender, and no number of buttons would have helped. As I've pointed out above though, Facebook don't seem overly-eager to face up to their responsibilities. The button isn't going to do any harm (and would barely be seen amongst all the crap that most teenagers have on their walls), and if it's used by even one teen who's getting groomed then it'll be worth it.

    Having said this, the whole Alan Johnson visit was a distasteful, cynical ploy to grab some headlines by a government that needs to crawl into its grave and stop twitching.

  20. E-Victims.org

    reduce visability

    We are seeing more predators approaching people on all the Social Networks. The is issue is they are visible because of their user settings. We need higher default privacy settings.

    Many of these predators become friends of kids online - so the kids aren't panicked. Miss Hall was never panicked she thought she was talking to and meeting her new boyfriend. The CEOP button would not have changed the outcome of this case.

    1. Marty

      @ tallywhacker

      Thank you for your comments and helpful advice and i will advise them to contact the high tech unit direct.

      My friend does have copies of all the messages and comments. They were printed out as they were recived in his daughters inbox and as they appeared online.

      What the main issue they had was that the police wo came out to talk to them regarding the abuse wanted to take her laptop away as evidence. This also happend last year when she reported abuseive messages on msn and facebook. It took 3 months before she got her computer back and NFA was taken. Its not a pritty sight telling a 17 year old girl to give up her computer for another 3 months and proberbly nothing will hapen again.

      The threats that were made were of a very serious nature and along with the background of the trial that had just ended shold have been taken a lot more serious from the start. A bit of name calling is one thing but this was way beyond this.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Good! Enough of this "won't someone think of the children" hysteria

    About bloody time the UK, its Govt & everyone there stopped seeing a paedo on every street corner. As my schoolteacher sister will confirm (or at least if it wouldn't cost her her career), most abuse is carried out by those close to the child anyhow.

    Kids in her class regularly freak out at the propect at having to spend a weekend at daddy's or mummy & stepdaddy's for the fear of what they'll have to endure.

    Perhaps UK Govt would be better focusing their attentions there, as it seems the police/schools/social services pretty much have their hands tied when trying to intervene.

  22. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    The Internet is like real life...

    It can be great

    It can be bad

    You can learn interesting things

    You can learn things you'd rather not know

    Don't like it?

    Tough.

    Like real life.

    You can opt out of using the Internet

  23. John 61
    Alert

    Continuing the nonsense...

    What did they expect? I've made this point on this site and others too, so I'll keep it short, but it is pertinent to the thread. After years of plugging the internet (and Mr Brown has another re-announced 50p BB campaign starting today to get *everyone* online), it's all gone horribly wrong. I agree with a lot of the other posters on here and what they say. Next up I suppose will be www.yourisp.com/index-big-panic-button.html legisliation. Out of curiosity though, maybe there is a story here that El Reg could pursue. The effectiveness of the CEOP button and its use, such as people "protected" from harm or how many false alarms. The BBC is running a get online campaign too, but these "taster courses" are too simplistic. It takes more than this to educate users - as they don't cover virus scanning/removal, updating drivers, software patches, registry editing to fix broken entries, etc etc. When I did voluntary work showing senior citizens how to use a computer it only went as far as using the mouse, keyboard and the internet. A lot wanted tech support, which was something I was capable of, but unable to demonstrate. New users, more problems.

  24. Craig 12
    Thumb Down

    Panic!

    If you're panicked enough to press a panic button, you wouldn't meet a stranger offline.

    The murdered girl wouldn't have pressed the button, even if it was there.

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