- 18 Nov 09, 11:25 GMT
Facebook is under fire this morning, accused of neglecting its responsibility to help to keep young internet users safe.
The charge comes from Jim Gamble of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, who wants Facebook (and MySpace) to follow the lead of Bebo in including Ceop's "Report button" in its social network.
Mr Gamble says he doesn't understand why Facebook won't take a fairly simple step which would give young users instant access to advice on issues from bullying to viruses and hacking, and would put them in touch with the police if they so wished.
Now, Facebook knew this attack was coming and gave the BBC a fairly comprehensive statement, explaining why the service is not keen on the Ceop button.
It says that it's tried out such systems on a number of occasions, and that they've proved ineffective, actually decreasing the number of abuse reports. It points out that it's an international site and would prefer to have its own global protection system rather than a separate one in each territory. And, in what appears to be a jibe aimed at Bebo, it says:
"We are confident that the Ceop button is an excellent solution for sites that have not invested in as robust a reporting infrastructure as Facebook has in place and one we continue to improve."
The social network - which earlier this month invited the BBC to film the centre in Dublin where it investigates reports of abuse - might appear to have quite a coherent case. But what Facebook has not done at the time of writing is to come on the radio and defend itself against its critics - allowing Jim Gamble to more convincingly argue that a company that won't debate the issue can't have much of a case.
We should also remember that, as various callers to a recent Nicky Campbell phone-in pointed out, there is an age-limit of 13 for Facebook, and there is a duty on parents to monitor the way their children use social networks.
But Facebook appears to have decided that it has nothing to gain by tangling live on air with a respected figure like Jim Gamble.
Facebook is of course a global business, based in California - but it is also now a major British media company, earning plenty of advertising revenue here and having a big effect on millions of lives. With that kind of power, some are asking: does it have a responsibility to answer its critics - especially when it believes that their criticisms are wrong-headed?
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