The ClickCEOP app was set up following mounting pressure from parents and the Government. It enables users to add or bookmark the app so that it appears on their homepage as not only a constant source of “help and reassurance” but also “a strong visual signal to their friends, family and others that they are in control online.”
Facebook has been promoting the system using advert messaging. Lines used to provoke reactions have included “She said she was young and blonde. He turned out to be old and grey”, “Friend requests from strangers? It happens sometimes” and “Is your friend for real? Things aren’t always what they seem online.”
Whilst I can see the potential of these lines to make users think again, the decision to stray away from a complete “panic button” connected to the police in favour of partnering with the UK’s national centre for child protection – the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, it may not be enough of a deterrent to stop inappropriate uses of social media.
Joanna Shields, Facebook’s vice president for EMEA, acknowledges this: “Nothing is more important than the safety of our users, which is why we have invested so much in making Facebook one of the safest places on the internet. There is no single silver bullet to making the Internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP’s expertise in online safety.”
Indeed, over the past week social media has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Prime Minister himself phoned Facebook bosses this week to condemn the “unacceptable” adulation heaped on a fan page dedicated to Roal Moat on the site and mounting criticism of the police while celebrity nutritionist Gillian McKeith seemed to have lost her temper on Twitter against fans, before deleting the confrontational tweets from her feed.
Yet, social media does have its purposes and child protection should be enforced as rigorously as possible.
On Wednesday evening, I attended a Lucre Social panel debate, where Unilever’s global planning director Asad Rehman and Dana al Salem, co-founder of Yahoo! Europe and CEO of Fanshake spoke.
Al Salem spoke of how social media can set trends and bring cultures to doorsteps. On Fanshake, kids can interact with their favourite bands and feel empowered and engaged. Currently X-Factor runners up JLS are hosting a competition for fans to create a fantasy band and win tickets to a gig as a reward.
Meanwhile Rehman said social media was pivotal at driving behavioural change and fitting in to a brand’s circle of trust. This relies on transparency and real value.
I think the structure Fanshake has in place is proof that social media can encourage cultural change and encourage children to surf the internet safely. Advertisers must take light of these positive changes and really think about how they can utilise social media in similar ways to encourage interaction with young audiences (or GenY as al Salem calls them) and boost brand equity – safe in the knowledge that steps have been taken to protect these users from online exploitation.