British users of social network Bebo now have a one-click tool to report possible incidents of child abuse or ‘grooming’ online, and a UK agency concerned with the welfare of young people in cyberspace hopes other networks will follow suit.
The 'CEOP Report' button, allows Bebo to report online abuse and illicit activity, enhancing its existing 'Report Abuse' functionality.
CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a UK law enforcement agency tasked with tracing online sex offenders.
The report button is used on other Web sites, and CEOP says it receives 10,000 hits a month.
Social networks have been targeted by child pornographers and other sexual abusers, who disguise themselves online as children in order to befriend young people. They insinuate themselves into young people’s lives, learning their likes and dislikes, in order to set them up for a physical encounter. This process is known as ‘grooming’.
By clicking on the CEOP report button – which appears on every profile as an automatic setting – young people, parents and carers are able to access the latest advice and help around issues such as viruses and hacking. Users will also find details of their local police and will be able to directly contact specially trained CEOP officers via an online reporting mechanism.
Jim Gamble, Chief Executive of CEOP, said: "There can hardly be a parent in the land whose teenager isn't part of a social networking site. These environments are huge and bring a vast array of converged facilities – uploads, downloads, chats and so on - that are now so integral to young people's lives.
“Bebo has made another positive move towards protecting the wellbeing of its users. Users of other areas may want to see the same service provided for them.”
While the CEOP button is a UK-only tool, Bebo says other countries where it operates have localised policies and procedures to report illicit activity to law enforcement.