The Ceop Safety Button Hype
Today, the BBC published a news article in which Jim Gamble, a senior police officer responsible for CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) hits out at social networking sites for not using his so-called 'safety button'.
In the interview, Mr Gamble says the button, will "protect children" and that it's "like a burglar alarm on your house that tells people you are protected", hence reassuring parents that children's safety is being taken seriously.
What a load of old codswallop! I can't believe this guy is in charge of our children's online safety and is touting such rubbish. Click here to try the button for yourself, and it soon becomes obvious that it isn't an effective "burglar alarm" at all:
- Try reporting some inappropriate sexual content yourself, and you will soon get frustrated. I gave up after more than ten clicks and an array of confusing options.
- Many of the links on the CEOP reporting system are cyclic, taking you round an endless loop. (For example, try reporting inappropriate sexual chat anonymously and it brings you back to the home page!)
- The CEOP button only allows you to report inappropriate sexual content anonymously, and not sexual behaviour.
- If you follow the CEOP button for yourself, you'll find out in a flash that it isn't actually a 'single click' solution as claimed by Mr Gamble. It just takes you to a page that signposts to other content and useful advice such as childline.org.uk
- The sign posted websites (such as Childline) are UK specific and not relevant to an international audience such as Facebook's.
Frankly, I'm amazed that Mr Gamble is managing to cause such a stir when there are basic fundamental usability issues with his system.
So, it's no surprise that he has spent three years trying to persuade social networks to use his button, and finally only Bebo agreed yesterday - after all they were recently named the worst site for bullying and have to be seen to be doing something.
It also seems obvious to me that if the industry adopted a standard button, this could easily be exploited by a fake button used to collect children's details.
Mr Gamble goes on to say that the fact that other sites such as Facebook aren't adopting his button, is "to me beyond logic ... and we need to challenge them". Well the logic is that Facebook has tested many generic safety buttons like his before, and they say in all cases they result in fewer reports than using their own buttons.
To conclude, the CEOP button is a useful link to the CEOP website, providing children with online advice - but it certainly isn't an effective alarm system that will "protect" children like "a burglar alarm on your house". Moreover, it would be dangerous to rely on it as such.
We recommend to our clients working with children that their social websites contain their own 'safety button' that notifies the site administrator directly, and that a link to the CEOP website is included only as an optional extra to signpost children to online advice.
Posted by Andy Mayer on 18/11/2009Tags: young-people