The Facebook panic button, which links through to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre, has been described as a placebo that will almost certainly lead to false positives.

Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, claimed that even if people are guilty of minor harassment they will be accused of posing a more serious threat.

He said: “Facebook undoubtedly needs to take a hard line on security, but as politics drives increasingly strict laws, the CEOP is in danger of creating so much noise that it is unable to determine the real threats. As a result, truly dangerous predators are lost among the masses of lesser offenders, making vulnerable users less safe in the end.

“Instead, Facebook should be doing more to explain the importance of limiting the sharing of personal information. Sharing is useful and even somewhat necessary to help friends find each other, but there are definitely limits. All users, but particularly children, shouldn't share too much. The site must focus on educating its users and preventing unwarranted access to personal information. Plus parents must take the responsibility to teach their children the difference between online and offline ‘friends'.”

He also claimed that it will create a false sense of security that could lead to parents abandoning their responsibilities for teaching their children about what to avoid online.