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Sun's Facebook-slapping hits wrong target

Paedo-threat coverage risks more restrictions for all

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The task of policing this form of communication sits squarely with the UK’s Child Exploitation Online Protection Unit (CEOP). The Sun reported that Twitter have so far refused to host CEOP’s alert button – but Twitter are certainly not alone in this as our understanding is that to date no social networking sites have taken up this offer.

In respect of Twitter, The Sun’s expert, ex-cop Mark Williams-Thomas claimed: "The problem is nobody is policing Twitter and nobody has woken up to the fact it is being exploited by paedophiles.

"Twitter should be monitoring their pages to make sure this doesn't happen. But they are not."

However, it remains unclear how Twitter’s failure to join the IWF is relevant to this alleged problem. If users identify indecent images on site, they are free to report them to the IWF.

The IWF are keen to sign up new members – even where there is less scope for an individual company to take action against paedophiles using its services. A spokeswoman for the IWF said: "[we] can help organisations protect their networks and services from being abused, protect their customers from being exposed to criminal content, can act as a point of expertise, and facilitate liaison with law enforcement bodies and other key partners."

For this reason, Facebook and the IWF have been in talks about Facebook joining the IWF for some months – not, as the Sun implies, since their story last week – and Facebook’s membership application is due to come up at the IWF’s board in December.

A quick search of the Sun website highlights a long list of anti-Facebook stories. One active LibDem blogger last year did a comparison of positive Facebook and positive MySpace stories in The Sun. The result was 15 per cent for the former – and 93 per cent for the latter.

Stories this year include "Facebook killer boast teen jailed" and "'Kill message' on Facebook" – not to mention copious references to "Facebook Monster" and "Facebook perv" in reporting the recent case of child abuse carried out by a paedophile ring that had met up via Facebook. ®

Bootnote

The Sun and social networking site MySpace are both part of News Corp. Facebook is not.

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