Facebook users log 100 crimes in a year

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NEARLY 100 crimes have been committed over Facebook in the Lothians during the last year, including eight cases where victims were stalked over the social 
network.

Fraud, racial abuse and grooming children for sex are among the other crimes which have been reported to police.

Officers investigated a total of 92 offences linked to the site between last June and March, with more than a third involving the sending of offensive messages to 
victims.

Police chiefs said “all legislation at our disposal” would be used to catch those who carry out crimes via Facebook. The force also warned that offenders would not be allowed to “hide behind a cyber identity”.

The eight “cyber-stalker” cases have been recorded since December when the Scottish Government created the new stalking offence of engaging in threatening, alarming or distressing behaviour, which includes harassment over the internet or through texting.

Campaigners supporting stalking victims said they believed the use of Facebook by stalkers was much wider than the reports to police.

Ann Mould, founder of Action Scotland Against Stalking, said: “Facebook is another tool for stalkers to use.

“It also gives them a degree of anonymity and they don’t even have to go out to stalk their victim.

“There have been 650 cases in Scotland reported since the stalking law came into force. We are seeing the numbers involving Facebook rising, but many victims of this may not even realise what is happening to them is stalking.

“Until we have greater awareness of the issue, many cases will go unreported. Victims will also need to have greater confidence in the system so they feel they can come forward and action will be taken.”

Other crimes in the force area committed via Twitter, social network bebo and on personal blogs have also been reported in the force area.

On Facebook, one case where the site was used to distribute an indecent photograph of a child was recorded in Lothian and Borders while three sexual offensive messages were logged.

Seven cases of making criminal threats over Facebook were reported while five offences of carrying out racial abuse were investigated.

A police spokesman said: “We are committed to investigating any reports of offences on social network sites thoroughly, and will use all legislation at our disposal to charge those responsible.

“Offenders believe they can hide behind a cyber identity while threatening or 
bullying others online – this is not the case, and we would encourage anyone who has suffered from this kind of behaviour to contact police on 0131-311 3131.”

Last year, the Evening News reported a case where a 26-year-old man from Stockbridge was left under siege for nine months by dozens of e-mails and calls from a woman who used social networking sites to track him.

The freelance designer told how the 22-year-old also started showing up at places where he was after identifying his location through Foursquare, a site which allows users to “check in” to venues.

A Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook’s Community Standards, supported by reporting tools on almost every page of the site mean such conduct is swiftly dealt with.

“People on Facebook act as the world’s largest neighbourhood watch and are very active in keeping the site safe. When matters of serious criminality are found on Facebook then we work with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”