Social networking website Facebook has promised to develop a new security measure that will automatically delete offensive messages sent by strangers.

Engineers at Facebook are now working on new systems to combat the growing trend, known as “trolling”, where anonymous users “bombard” victims with offensive messages or abuse, the Telegraph reported.

According to the report, “trolls” have targeted a number of “tribute” pages including those in memory of the Cumbria shootings victims and soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Currently, Facebook users can manually delete abusive messages, but officials said the new system would delete the offensive content automatically.

Administrators of such sites will also be given new advice on how to cope with “trolls” and be given access to the new tools, they said.

A Facebook spokesman said that while the company already employed “robust” systems, engineers were developing new programmes to combat the threat.

“Because ‘trolls’ tend to set up fake accounts, we employ robust systems to flag and block them based on name and anomalous site activity,” he said.

“Users who send lots of messages to non-friends, for example, or whose friend requests are rejected at a high rate, are marked as suspect.

“We’ve built extensive grey lists that prevent users from signing up with names commonly associated with fake accounts.”

Jim Gamble, the chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), who has been working with Facebook to combat cyber bullying, welcomed the news.

Gamble, who played a key role pressurising Facebook to launch a panic button through which children could now report bullying to CEOP directly, said the “ClickCEOP” application on Facebook had been downloaded more than 10,000 times since the button’s launch last month.

The application gives users a direct link to advice, help and the ability to report cyber problems to the centre.

“We’re working with Facebook. They are a good partner and we’re going to get closer and closer to them,” he said.

“But in the longer term, we want the Click CEOP button to be a default. So you don’t have to be sensible to realise you need it there, that you don’t need to be a motivated parent to be reassured that your child is best protected.”


A week without Facebook…September 17, 2010