Paper grovels to Facebook after pedophile claims

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Facebook is to sue Britain's Daily Mail after an article claimed it was a playground for pedophiles.

A piece by criminologist Mark Williams-Thomas in yesterday's edition said the author had posed as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook and had  been approached "within 90 seconds" by a man "wanting to perform a sex act in front of me".

Unfortunately, the piece was untrue. It might have been a bit of a giveaway that Facebook doesn't allow over-18s to contact under-18s who aren't already friends - nor, indeed does it have any video chat. But the Daily Mail isn't known for its grasp on the real world.

Further, the author hadn't actually said anything of the sort. He hadn't been using Facebook at all, but a different, unnamed social networking site.

The idea that it was Facebook had been inserted by the Daily Mail, it seems; and Williams-Thomas told the BBC that he'd told the paper prior to publication that it was untrue.

"Just to clarify the Daily Mail article experiment that i carried out & is written about relates to another well known SNS but not Facebook," he says on Twitter.  "i have specifically not named the SNS as i don't want people going to it & trying it out."

The Daily Mail has duly issued an apology today.

"In an article by a criminologist yesterday we wrongly stated that he had conducted an experiment into social networking sites by posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook with the result that he quickly attracted sexually motivated messages," it reads.

"In fact he had used a different social networking site for this exercise. We are happy to set the record straight."

Even then, the Mail's poor grasp of technology let it down. While it amended the online version of the story to refer to 'a social networking site', it clean forgot to change the URL - which read: 'I-posed-girl-14-Facebook-What-followed-sicken-you' for quite some time.