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Don’t panic – the Policing Pledge won’t be able to stand it!

April 15, 2010

This entry was inspired by this PC Advisor article, among others.

For some time, so-called ‘senior’ police officers have been campaigning for social networking site Facebook to install a ‘panic button’ facility on every one of their pages.

The idea is that if some poor child gets offended, abused, targeted or ignored on there, they can press the button and generate a warning to the nice people at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)

My colleague 200 Weeks has already posted about the problems that adults cause the police when they use Facebook – see his post Get A Life. (Note also that Dr Melvin T Gray has commented under his nom de guerre of MTG – he’s popped a couple of comments on one of my posts and it’s great to be recognised by one of the more articulate trolls out there. CORRECTION – Dr Gray actually commented on this post, but you will get the gist of it.)

So in reality, what will happen when little Billy gets called a ‘fat twat’ by one of his school mates in a moment of anger? Now, notwithstanding the fact that Billy may be a bit more rounded than the other pupils in the class and may have a propensity towards stupidity, he will have the option to press the Facebook panic button.

We’ve all been kids (some of us still are) and we all know that kids are horrible to each other. They call names and do dreadful things in the name of fun, but it is forgotten about the next day. That is until ‘the authorities’ get involved. Parents, teachers, social workers and police officers just make things worse in most cases. In this case, the panic report will go to CEOP, who will no doubt do the right thing and inform the local constabulary of their concerns for little Billy’s welfare.

This report cannot be ignored and will generate an incident log in the receiving force. This will send the control room into a panic (but they don’t have a button to press) as they will now have to contact little Billy and tell him how long it will be before an officer can come round and dispense some “there there” medicine.  This is the Policing Pledge! This is where the problem starts.

Every day, thousands of little Billys up and down the land will be pressing the button because they’ve been called a nasty name or someone has put a silly comment on one of their pictures. Or worse – has deleted them as a friend or has made friends with someone that little Billy doesn’t like.

Every day, thousands of lights will be flashing on screens at CEOP HQ.

Every day, thousands of incident logs will be created all over the country and thousands of police officers will be tasked with telling Billy and his parents that the person who called Billy a ‘fat twat’ may be entitled to their opinion and would definitely not be going to prison for it.

In the meantime – burglars are burgling, rapists are raping, murderers are murdering and politicians are ripping off the country. But nothing will be done to prevent it, because we are all sat in the station filling out Data Protection Act forms to get the identity of little Billy’s sworn enemy. That’s after we’ve filled out the Vulnerable Persons report and completed a comprehensive risk assessment. The more astute bobby will realise that this offence is covered by the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which for some reason seems to have escaped the clutches of the Home Office Counting Rules and does not need to be recorded as a crime.

I have no doubt that there are a few predatory paedophiles out there who trawl Facebook, MySpace, Twatter and other sites looking for victims. It would make their task a lot more difficult if parents educated their children in the safe use of the internet or even took a keen interest in what their children were doing in their rooms for hours on end. Having a button connected apparently directly to the police is not going to solve this problem. All it will do is divert policing resources away from investigating the real issues, because someone in the Home Office has said we have to respond to every call for service within a certain period of time.

There will be no control over WHO can press the panic button. There will be no comeback on those people who press it for fun. There will be no responsibility on the part of the social networking provider, who lets face it makes a fortune out of advertising but won’t have to pay a penny towards the policing of THEIR network. All the blame will land at the feet of the police – it will be our fault that Billy gets called names.

My advice? Get Billy off the bloody internet and get him enrolled in a boxing club or something. At least then he can be bullied in full view of everybody and have the bruises to prove it!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 13:41

    You do realise that you’re far too sensible, don’t you?

  2. Conor permalink
    April 17, 2010 22:59

    This was prompted by the murder of Ashleigh Hall, and which totally ignores the fact that she didn’t panic. She just arranged to meet her killer, without considering the risk. So how would a panic button have helped her?

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