Facebook has "no objection in principle" to installing an anti-paedophile panic button on its site, Home Secretary Alan Johnson said today.



Talks between Mr Johnson and the internet giant were called after the site was criticised in the wake of the murder of Ashleigh Hall.

The schoolgirl was killed by serial rapist Peter Chapman who posed as a young boy on the site and lured her to her death.

After he was convicted of murder, her mother attacked the site for not doing enough to protect youngsters from predatory paedophiles.

Mr Johnson said representatives of the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) would meet Facebook representatives in Washington DC next month to discuss the issue.

Mr Johnson said he was pleased with the outcome of talks today.

In a statement he said: "We had a frank exchange of views in which I emphasised that including the CEOP abuse reporting button on their site has the potential to transform child protection - and that the company should put this above all other considerations.

"Facebook told us they have no objection to the principle of including the CEOP button on their site and that they have now agreed to a high level meeting with CEOP in Washington on April 12 to discuss this issue further.

"(Minister) Alan Campbell and I reiterated our view that Facebook must find a way to use this button. I am pleased that the meeting with CEOP is taking place and await the outcome with interest."



A Facebook spokesman confirmed the company is considering adding the CEOP button, as well as a link to an anti-bullying site.

He defended Facebook's current systems, saying: "We were pleased to provide the Home Secretary with further details about our robust reporting system.

"This innovative system has been developed by analysing millions of reports submitted over the years and testing ways to continually improve our system.

"The resulting system effectively handles all manner of potential abuse we see on the site, ranging from the common minor breaking of the rules, such as embarrassing pictures, to the extremely rare serious matters that are quickly escalated to law enforcement.

"We also explained that we are exploring ways to improve safety and these include adding links to a number of additional organisations, including CEOP and Beatbullying, on Facebook's reporting pages.

"This would improve our existing reporting structure and provide people with more options should they want to report unwanted contact to CEOP, Beatbullying or another organisation.

"We will also explore adding the CEOP button to our Safety Centre. We expect to discuss these proposed changes with CEOP when we meet them in a few weeks time."



During his visit to the North West today, Gordon Brown said he was expecting progress from Facebook on the panic button within days.



Speaking to Real Radio 105.4FM, the Prime Minister told interviewer Darren Parks: "We have got to have something like that. You will know as a parent that you are worried about what material is coming in through the internet, you are worried that people can use the internet for mischievous and devious and, particularly, exploitative purposes.



"I think Facebook have now agreed that they will have the same kind of panic button that other websites have. If we can get that more widespread then people will be more protected.



"We want them to do it and I think they will agree to do it. I think we will get a better system within the next few days."



Mr Brown also revealed that he talked with Equalities Minister Harriet Harman yesterday about the prospect of action to tackle internet "grooming" of young people for sexual exploitation, and said legislation would be introduced during the next Parliament.

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