Amy Klobuchar wants a Facebook panic button [UPDATED]

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Amy Klobuchar wants a kids' panic button on Facebook
Updated: Facebook issues a public response to Klobuchar (after the jump).

First Sen. Al Franken took off on Facebook for its privacy -- or lack thereof -- policy. Now our senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, has the 800-pound gorilla of a social media site, trying to get its CEO to take a harder line protecting kids who use the service from sex offenders. The former prosecutor has asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg to expand a "panic button" feature available on the UK version of the platform to the U.S. version as soon as possible.

Klobuchar will be part of Commerce Committee hearings that start Friday looking into online safety for kids.

Full text of the letter:

July 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

As you know on Monday, Facebook partnered with a child protection agency to create a "panic button" application for users in the United Kingdom. The launch of this application speaks to the level of importance that your company has placed on maintaining a safe online community for users of all ages, and for teenagers in particular.

Protecting our kids from online predators is a top priority. Recent research has shown that one in four American teenagers have been victims of a cyber predator. And when teens experience abusive behavior online, only 10 percent discuss it with their parents and even fewer report the misconduct to law enforcement. It's clear that teenagers need to know how to respond to a cyber attack and I believe we need stronger reporting mechanisms to keep our kids safe.

There is no disputing the value of Facebook. It is an innovative tool for connecting family, colleagues, and friends. But as the Web site's membership expands, new concerns have arisen about how to best protect young users from online predators. With these issues in mind, I ask you:

• Is it feasible for Facebook to require a prominent safety button or link on the profile pages of users under the age of 18? What barriers prevent Facebook from incorporating such a safety button?
• Does Facebook have an Internet safety page available for teenagers and parents? Is there a link or safety button clearly placed on every page? How easy is it to access Internet safety materials?
• What information is included in Facebook's Internet safety materials? Has Facebook consulted with relevant Internet safety groups in creating and updating this information?
• Does Facebook have a system to allow users to report threats or abuse on the network? How accessible is this threat reporting system?

As a former prosecutor and the mother of a teenager, I understand firsthand the importance of safeguarding our children online. While parental involvement is crucial, young people themselves must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from threats in the online world. There is no single solution to making the internet safe. But a prominent button at the top of every page that links to resources and information about Internet safety would go a long way to empower and inform teenagers and parents. I look forward to your continued leadership on this important issue.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes responded this afternoon in a public statement. There's no mention of a "panic button," but promotes touts other safety measures:

"We share Sen. Klobuchar's concern for Internet safety and believe Facebook has been a leader through the creation of our Safety Advisory Board, the expansion of our Safety Center, and the establishment of a partnership with the National PTA to educate parents, teachers and students about online safety. Facebook offers reporting links throughout the site and we believe the "Help" links on every page provide an effective mechanism for people to reach our Safety Center, which is featured prominently on the landing page. We continue to concentrate our efforts on expanding safety information on the site and partnering with experts to create opportunities to educate people about online safety in school, at home and elsewhere."

...

Background:

- We routinely work with groups like Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, WiredSafety, Childnet International and the Family Online Safety Institute. They serve in a consultative capacity on issues related to online safety.
- It's also important to note that Facebook's Legal and Security teams regularly work with law enforcement officials when they are investigating criminal activity.
- You should also understand that the ClickCEOP application, which was launched by CEOP in the UK this week, is not a "panic button." The app provides links to CEOP's educational resources and reporting pages. CEOP is responsible for the app, not Facebook.

Facebook Safety Center
http://www.facebook.com/help/#!/help/?safety
- Resources for general safety on Facebook plus specialized resources for parents, teens, educators and law enforcement officials.
- Contains four times as many resources as it previously did -- including content for parents developed by Common Sense Media.
- Also benefitted from the European Union's Safer Social Networking Principles, a set of recommended best practices.


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