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Facebook retools its safety info center

Redesigned area offers new advice and FAQs for parents, teens, teachers, and law enforcement officers.

Facebook has revamped its safety information center to better help its 400 million users protect themselves while using the social network, the company said Tuesday.

The Safety Center has been retooled to try to make it more user-friendly, offer content from safety advocacy organizations, and provide advice for specific groups: parents, teenagers, teachers, and law enforcement officers.

Facebook compares staying safe online to learning stranger danger or the rules of the road.

"There's no single answer to making the Internet or Facebook safer," Elliot Schrage, vice president of Global Communications and Public Policy at Facebook, said in a statement. "That's why we're introducing new tools and advice for parents, educators and teens. We want our approach for improving safety to be as simple, easy and effective as our approach to improving Facebook's user experience."

The teen section, for example, starts with straight-forward, general advice: "First, don't give out your password to anyone, not even your significant other or best friend. Be sure to customize your privacy settings...Remember, unless you're prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don't post it."

Facebook's redesigned Safety Center
Facebook's redesigned Safety Center Facebook

For parents whose teens are facing cyberbullies, Facebook breaks its advice into four categories: accepting friends with safety in mind, using the "block" feature to stop abusive behavior, reporting abusive behavior to Facebook, and learning how to use privacy settings.

There is also information that applies to any Facebook user, regardless of age. If a person discovers a fake page that impersonates him or her, for example, Facebook says to go to the impostor's profile, click on "Report this Person," and choose "Fake Account" as the reason.

Taking it up a notch, Facebook also offers advice to law enforcement. For police officers who find a registered sex offender on the site, for example, Facebook links to a tailored form online. There is also a specific mechanism for reporting potential terrorist activity. A recent report from the Simon Wiesenthal Center found that more hate groups and terrorists are tapping into Facebook and other social networks.

To revamp the Safety Center and set up other safety measures, Facebook has been working directly with its Safety Advisory Board, which is made up of Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, WiredSafety, Childnet International, and The Family Online Safety Institute.

The redesign of the Safety Center is the latest effort by Facebook to try to improve security on its site. In December, the company removed the accounts of registered sex offenders identified by the New York State Attorney General's office. The company had also faced complaints from other state attorneys general over the safety of its site for minors. In response, Facebook signed an agreement in early 2008 with 49 attorneys general do a better job of protecting youths on its site from online predators.