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Klobuchar presses Facebook to provide minors with a way to report predators

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar sent a letter this week to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, regarding the creation of a "panic button" application for Facebook users in the United States.

On Monday, Facebook launched a new application that would allow children between the ages of 13 and 18 in the United Kingdom to learn about cyber harassment and report instances of cyber abuse.

In the letter, Klobuchar highlighted the need to provide all teenagers with information to help them protect themselves from online predators. Klobuchar noted that online abuse and harassment is often unreported by teenage victims in the United States.

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Tomorrow, the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "Protecting Youths in an Online World."

The full text of the letter is below:

July 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

As you know on Monday, Facebook partnered with a child protection agency to create a "panic button" application for users in the United Kingdom. The launch of this application speaks to the level of importance that your company has placed on maintaining a safe online community for users of all ages, and for teenagers in particular.

Protecting our kids from online predators is a top priority. Recent research has shown that one in four American teenagers have been victims of a cyber predator. And when teens experience abusive behavior online, only ten percent discuss it with their parents and even fewer report the misconduct to law enforcement. It's clear that teenagers need to know how to respond to a cyber attack and I believe we need stronger reporting mechanisms to keep our kids safe.

There is no disputing the value of Facebook. It is an innovative tool for connecting family, colleagues, and friends. But as the website's membership expands, new concerns have arisen about how to best protect young users from online predators. With these issues in mind, I ask you:

--Is it feasible for Facebook to require a prominent safety button or link on the profile pages of users under the age of 18? What barriers prevent Facebook from incorporating such a safety button?

--Does Facebook have an Internet safety page available for teenagers and parents? Is there a link or safety button clearly placed on every page? How easy is it to access Internet safety materials?

--What information is included in Facebook's Internet safety materials? Has Facebook consulted with relevant Internet safety groups in creating and updating this information?

--Does Facebook have a system to allow users to report threats or abuse on the network? How accessible is this threat reporting system?

As a former prosecutor and the mother of a teenager, I understand firsthand the importance of safeguarding our children online. While parental involvement is crucial, young people themselves must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from threats in the online world. There is no single solution to making the internet safe. But a prominent button at the top of every page that links to resources and information about Internet safety would go a long way to empower and inform teenagers and parents. I look forward to your continued leadership on this important issue.