Facebook takes on AFP's point-of-contact request

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Facebook takes on AFP's point-of-contact request

Federal Police request finally taken formally.

Facebook's policy consultant Mozelle Thompson today acknowledged the Australian Federal Police's (AFP) call for a local law enforcement contact as a "formal request".

The AFP told media late last month, and again this week, that it had requested that Facebook establish a local point of contact.

But at a meeting of the parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety in Melbourne today, Thompson said he was unaware that the AFP had put forth a "formal request".

Facebook already had a Californian law enforcement unit that was operational on a 24/7 basis and staffed by ex-FBI agents, he said, adding that one member of the unit was dedicated solely to Australian issues.

Thompson took the request on formally, noting that the company had already been considering "whether it would be helpful to have someone here".

He suggested that a local point of presence could introduce inefficiencies in communications between Australian police and Facebook's Californian headquarters.

"We want to maintain clear and streamlined communications between the company and law enforcement agencies," he said. "We wouldn't want to delay communications."

AFP Superintendent Brad Shallies said a local point of contact should be immediately accessible to the AFP and other state and territory agencies.

"It's beyond dispute that Facebook's responsiveness has been excellent," Challis said, highlighting its role in the recent investigation of NSW teenager Nona Belomesoff's murder.

"We believe a dedicated point of contact within Australia would be of benefit to law enforcement," he said.

Committee Deputy Chair and Liberal MP Alex Hawke asked why the agency was asking for a point of contact at Facebook in particular, and not at other social networking sites and telecommunications service providers.

"It's not just about Facebook, but the statistics speak for themselves," Challis said, referring to Thompson's earlier claim that half of Australia's internet users had Facebook accounts.

Challis took a question on notice from Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief Peter Coroneos, who asked whether existing police protocols were insufficient in Facebook-related investigations.

Both Facebook's Thompson and IIA's Coroneos urged the Committee to consider "empowering", rather than regulating, internet users to curb cyberbullying.

"[The industry should] talk about positive reinforcement ... empowering people to share positive stories and denounce and report bad behaviour," Thompson said.

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