Government bins plans to block paedophiles from Facebook

Shadow using computer

The government has shelved plans to block known paedophiles from social networking sites such as Facebook over fears that it would breach their human rights.

The original plans stemmed from concerns that users were increasingly communicating and sharing content with each other within the sites. Under the proposals - similar to those already in place in the US - more than 30,000 sex offenders would be denied access, with failure to comply resulting in up to five years' imprisonment.

However, with the plan requiring police to share the personal details and email addresses of registered sex offenders with the social networking sites, the Home Office has been forced to backtrack over fears that incompatibility with the right to privacy would leave the legislation open to legal challenge.

"We're seeking leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court," a Home Office spokesman told the Guardian newspaper.

There is widespread evidence that offenders are increasingly turning their attention to social networking sites used by millions of children.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's (CEOP) annual report highlights a significant increase in the use of webcams and instant messaging as tools to incite unwitting children into committing or watching a sexual act.

"Cases in the past 12 months range from instances where offenders have infiltrated social networking and other online environments to collect pictures of young children to examples of sustained grooming and blackmail with offenders seeking to meet a child offline for abduction and sexual abuse," the CEOP report states.

The government is hoping to bring the UK more into line with far stricter legislation in the US, which bans sex offenders from accessing personal networking sites and makes their personal details publicly available.