Ceop Report button

Major social networking sites MySpace and Facebook have been criticised for failing to introduce a help button for children being bullied online.

Jim Gamble, from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), hit out as rival networking site Bebo adopted the button.

He said there was "no legitimate reason" why MySpace and Facebook had not done the same.

A spokesman for Facebook said users’ safety was its "top priority".

Trained officers

Ceop says thousands of youngsters a month are already using its Report button on other websites.

Clicking the button allows users to contact specially trained Ceop officers for advice.

It also provides details of local police and links to 10 other sources of help including Childline.

Mr Gamble said social networking sites were making money through advertising by attracting children and teenagers to join.

"We applaud that but do not forget while you do that there is a responsibility, a duty of care, to the young and the vulnerable," he said.

"We are here to help at a low cost – in fact, this is free, we are giving away this service. What cost can you put on child protection I have seen the horrible aftermath of it."

"I can see no reason why other sites would not consider adopting the same approach"

Sir Hugh Orde
Association of Chief Police Officers

Mr Gamble said some sites claimed there were technical issues surrounding introduction of the button, while critics suggest companies do not want to lose potentially lucrative advertising space.

But he added: "[The button] is tiny and does not take up any significant real estate. The bottom line is there is no legitimate reason for not taking it and placing it on a site."

Several sites including Bebo, MSN Messenger and Facebook already give users the chance to alert staff to abuse, but now Bebo has gone further by adopting the Ceop Report button itself.

Bebo said it was "committed to providing its community with the safest possible environment" and its decision was praised as "very responsible" by Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

"I can see no reason why other sites would not consider adopting the same approach and would encourage them to embed the Ceop Report button for the benefit of all users," he added.

‘Safe environment’

A Facebook spokesman said: "The safety of Facebook users is the top priority for the company, which is why we have invested in the most robust reporting system to support our 300 million users.

"We also work closely with police forces in the UK and around the world to create a safe environment. Our teams are manned by trained staff in two continents giving 24-hour support in 70 languages.

"We look forward to hearing about the experience of Bebo using the Ceop button and will take account of their experience in any future evaluation of our reporting systems."

On Monday, a poll of more than 2,000 young people by charity Beatbullying found that 57% had been harassed online using Windows Live Messenger.

Nearly a third said they had been cyber-bullied on Bebo.

Earlier this year, in the first criminal case of its kind in the UK, 18-year-old Keeley Houghton was detained for three months in a young offenders’ institution for harassing a woman on Facebook.

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation, The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.