Facebook is planning on launching a 'panic button' application on its social networking site, which aims to make the site safer for young users.

The new application will allow these Facebook users to report any suspicious online behaviour and access internet safety advice. They can also report any abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Facebook. More details below from Mashable.com

Why the Change?

A UK official joined the mother of murdered teenager Ashleigh Hall in a call for the deployment of the button on Facebook. The tool is already present on other sites, including Bebo. Facebook resisted joining them at first, claiming that it already offers reporting tools, but the BBC says that Facebook finally agreed to do it after 44 police chiefs signed a petition.

Advocates argue that integration with the well-established CEOP organization will help authorities take legal or police action more swiftly and accurately.

The button will be part of a larger application run by CEOP. We don't have all the details yet, but we do know that there will also be a landing page with basic safety information for teenagers. Facebook already launched something similar on its own with the revamped Safety Center two months ago.

Potential Problems

Facebook rep Sophy Silver was quoted by the BBC saying that the reporting tool will act as a "viral awareness campaign" by informing your friends when something's up too.

While we're all for tools that help protect teenagers from sharing Ashleigh Hall's fate, we're concerned about the potential abuses of this tool. People will inevitably make errors when using it, and some might even abuse it as a means of harassment or humiliation against peers.

Here's to hoping that there will be strong protections against that kind of abuse in the final product. Do you have any ideas about how Facebook and CEOP could make a system that protects teens but that isn't ripe for abuse?