THE family of a murdered teenager have welcomed plans by Facebook to install a safety button on its website.
The social networking site has launched a new application that will instantly direct users to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) if they encounter inappropriate content.
The convicted sex offender posed as a handsome 19-yearold youth in order to groom Ashleigh.
Following her death, The Northern Echo set up the Safety Net campaign, which called for tougher controls on social networking sites, including a direct link to CEOP on Facebook.
The website, which is the largest social networking site in the world, initially resisted pressure to install the link.
Last night, Mike Hall, Ashleigh’s grandfather, said he was delighted that Facebook had agreed to install the safety device.
“This is exactly what we’ve been campaigning for,” he said.
“After all this time, they are listening to us and at last we are getting something done.
“It’s good news and it is a step in the right direction.
“At last we are getting something positive out of this.”
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, who was Ashleigh’s ward councillor when she was murdered, said: “I think this shows that persistence pays off when it comes to trying to persuade big companies to do
the right thing.
“Since Ashleigh was murdered, a lot of people in Darlington made it their business to look into the issues surrounding internet safety, particularly for young people.
“Being able to report things quickly and easily rather than forgetting about it and to get advice is very, very welcome.
I’m chuffed to bits.”
The new application will be launched today for all Facebook users – especially those between 13 to 18 years.
The ClickCEOP button will be provided by an application that users can add or bookmark so that it appears on their homepage.
The move is being supported by widespread advertising on Facebook encouraging users to take up the application.
There will also be a message appearing on the homepage of users aged between 13 to 18 inviting them to add the application.
The initiative has come as a result of a new collaboration between CEOP and Facebook.
Jim Gamble, chief executive of CEOP, said: “Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the ClickCEOP button is well documented – today, however, is a good day for child protection.
“We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people online.
“We urge all Facebook users to add the app and bookmark it so that others can see that they are in control online.”
Facebook vice-president Joanna Shields said: “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.
“Together, we have developed a new way of helping young people stay safe online and backed this with an awareness campaign.”
CEOP’s new Facebook page facebook.com/clickceop will also contain polls, news alerts and status updates.
It will look at a number of teenage subjects, including celebrities, music and exams, and link them to online safety.