British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mail could be in hot water with Facebook after incorrectly naming the site in an article on sexual stalking on the Internet.
In an article headlined ‘I posed as a girl of 14 on Facebook. What followed will sicken you', criminologist Mark Williams-Thomas described how he had used social networking to pose as a 14- year-old girl, attracting immediate interest from male users looking for sex.
"I was deluged by strangers asking stomach-churning questions about my sexual experience. I was pressured to meet men with whom I'd never before communicated," reads the piece.
In fact, the author had been using another unnamed site, forcing the Mail to change the headline to remove references to Facebook. According to a Facebook source quoted in third-party reports, some of the actions described in the piece, such as the identification of minors to older members, would not be possible on the site.
Williams-Thomas is reported to have informed the newspaper of its mistake at the time of publication. The mistake happened in both online and print versions of the newspaper - the latter obviously cannot be amended - a fact that could cause problems for the newspaper if it comes to court.
It's not clear what Facebook would gain by pursuing the newspaper given that the latter has apologised and corrected the error, but then again the Mail has published a string of negative stories involving the social media site so perhaps sympathy will be in short supply. The UK has stinging libel laws that have a reputation of giving the upper hand to any litigant willing to spend the money required to pursue a claim through the courts. On the face of it, the newspaper case looks weak.
The author, Williams-Thomas has defended his decision not to name the social network used for fear it would advertise the weakness of its controls to stalkers.