Today, Facebook announced the launch of several new tools aimed at making the social network a safer and more secure experience for everyone involved. Some of the tools, like the redesigned Family Safety Center and social reporting buttons, are designed to combat the ongoing issue of cyberbullying, which primarily affects the younger Facebook population. Meanwhile, other new tools will be helpful to everyone, like the option to enable an advanced security feature called Two Factor Authentication and the improvements to HTTPS.

All of the new features are available now, says Facebook.

Updated Family Safety Center

The newly redesigned Family Safety Center was announced in March during President Obama’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. Originally called just “Safety Center” when launched in April 2010, this online portal offers educational information for users, with sections dedicated to parents, teens, teachers and law enforcement professionals. The new site sports a fresh look, with easy to navigate topics, helpful videos, how-to sections, and links to related Facebook pages.  The Center even links to relevant news articles off-site for additional information. For example, the Facebook Safety Tools page provides links recommended articles from The Washington Post, CNET, Huffington Post and others.

Facebook also says a free, downloadable guide for teachers, written by safety experts Linda Fogg Phillips, B.J. Fogg and Derek Barid will be available in the coming weeks.

Social Reporting Tool Expanded to Rest of Site

Also new today is the expansion of Facebook’s social reporting tool to more sections of the network, including Profiles, Pages and Groups. Introduced in March of this year as a way for users to report photos they don’t like, the same “report” link will now be found elsewhere on the network.

Anyone can take advantage of the tool to report images, or, now, other content, that contains hate speech, violence, illegal activity, pornography, spam or scam content or personal attacks. However, the tool was pitched more as a way for younger Facebook users to get help from friends and other trusted adults.

“Safety and child psychology experts tell us that online issues are frequently a reflection of what is happening offline,” explained a company blog post from March. “By encouraging people to seek help from friends, we hope that many of these situations can be resolved face to face.” That same message was reiterated again today.

The tool not only allows users to report offensive content to Facebook itself, it also directs users how to get help through “What You Can Do” screens, that offer suggestions on how to deal with their harasser, like “Send a message,” “Remove as friend,” or “Block.” Users can also check a box that lets them get help from a trusted friend, which can be anyone else they want to forward the message to. This option requires the entry of an email address, which would allow users to forward the information to people they aren’t friends with on Facebook, like adults, parents or teachers, for example.

Two Factor Authentication and Improved HTTPS

The last set of new launches today involve tools that provide Facebook users with additional security features. An optional Two Factor Authentication setting will begin rolling out now, allowing users to have the option of entering a code anytime they log into Facebook from a new device. This code is entered in addition to the account password, adding an extra layer of protection.

Facebook has also improved its HTTPS feature, which allows users to access to Facebook over a secure connection, so that the feature will switch back on after a user visits a non-HTTPS Facebook application. Many in the security community would like to see HTTPS made the default, of course, but there appears to still be issues with Facebook applications adopting the feature. This update provides a workaround for that problem by allowing users to play Facebook games and use Facebook apps via non-HTTPS connections, then returning to the secure connection when finished.

sarah perez

subscriber