Facebook has been such an integral part of our lives that even recent crimes are cropping up; crimes with a specific M.O. that involves Facebook as an accessory. And it’s not limited to cyberstalking, identity theft, distribution of child pornography materials, etc. These crimes are pervasive on the internet but they only represent the tip of the iceberg.
The type I’m referring to involves some creative, bizarre and unthinkable crimes that are linked to Facebook, for example that recent story about a mother who tried to sell her two kids (a 10-month old and a 4 year old on Facebook for $4000), ironically to bail her boyfriend out of jail.
While the law caught up with that case, in some cases listed below, the justice system is fumbling over them, trying to figure out which is unlawful and which is not. These ten types of bizarre Facebook crimes serve as a reminder to all of us of the impact that Facebook has over our privacy, and how much it can possibly override the sanity of people, turning them into criminals.
Recommended Reading: 5 Things That Shouldn’t Be On Your Facebook
1. Jailed over Facebook Friend Request
In 2007, Dylan Osborn was ordered by magistrates not to contact his wife after he was found to be harassing her with phone calls and text messages. When he sent a ‘friend request’ via Facebook to her despite the restraining order, Dylan’s wife reported him to the police. He was consequently arrested and sentenced to ten days of imprisonment.
Technical Get-Out-of-Jail Card
However, in his defense, Osborn claimed that the ‘friend request’ was sent automatically to everyone on his email list (which includes his wife) after he signed up for Facebook for the first time. He was unaware that his wife was already on Facebook.
So while he is told to have no form of communication with his wife, online or offline, in this case, it was Facebook who had automatically conducted the friend request, landing him in jail. Whether this is a smart defense tactic that had brought the order out into uncharted territory, or a ticket out of his failed attempt to contact his wife, we’d probably never know.
2. Suicide By Social Bullying
The infamous suicide of Ms Phoebe Prince in 2010 is a classic case of cyberbullying gone terribly wrong. Having just moved from Ireland, Ms. Prince was subjected to taunts and bullying for months before taking her own life.
A freshman at South Hadley High School, Massachusetts, she had been receiving abusive text messages, harassment on her Facebook wall and on school grounds over girl-boy relationship disputes.
The Horrible Truth
But this had not been considered a cause to her suicide until one of her bullies wrote ‘accomplished’ on the poor girl’s Facebook wall on the day she hanged herself. Further digging revealed that a group of schoolmates had been carrying out of bullying campaign against Prince which continued even after her death.
(Image source: today24news.com)
The public pointed fingers at the school authority for not doing enough to prevent the tragedy from happening, but at least in this story, justice was served.
The Final Verdict
Six teenagers were charged for a variety of criminal offences, including statutory rape (that was eventually dropped by Prince’s family), "civil rights violation", stalking, and even assault and battery (also dropped from pleading guilty to criminal harassment).
While many view their community service sentences and probation as "a slap on the wrist", the case brought the issues of cyberbullying to light, culminating in a new law meted out to fight bullying in schools in Massachusetts.
3. Fatal Attraction: ‘It’s Complicated’
As I read the several murder cases that are linked to Facebook posts, it struck me that all of them were triggered by relationship conflicts.
I see it in the case of Brian Lewis who killed his wife, Hayley Jones after she changed her Facebook profile from ‘married’ to ‘single’ back in 2009, as well as in the case of Camille Mathurasingh who was murdered by her boyfriend, Paul Bristol in 2010 after seeing her with another man on her Facebook page.
(Image source: dailymail.co.uk)
No Love Lost
In a separate incident, Adam Mann had brutally hammered his ex-wife, Lisa Beverley before slitting her throat and leaving her bloodied body to be found by their five-year-old son – all because she had taunted him on Facebook.
Beverly had reported Mann’s attempts to evade paying child support to the Child Support Agency (CSA) then posted a smug remark on Facebook, and called him ‘a joke’. He retaliated with such violence that she had no chance of survival.
Although murders that happened because of jealousy in a relationship are relatively common, using Facebook intensified the actions involved as it is a very public platform.
When one posts evidence about a failing relationship, the other party may experience a punctured ego (especially men) particularly when he is implied to be the cause of the failure. Things will get ugly when you wash your dirty linen in public.
4. Facebook Impersonation
Online identity thefts are rampant across the world. We see it in the thousands of fake profiles of celebrities on Facebook and Twitter, with some successfully misleading others into thinking they’re genuine profiles. Nevertheless, identity theft can turn into a serious offence depending on what is done with the fake profile.
Most people are not aware that there are laws out there to protect against online identity thefts.
Take the case of a New Jersey woman, Dana Thornton who could potentially face up to 18 months in prison for creating a fake Facebook profile for her ex-boyfriend to post pictures that intentionally defame his reputation.
Another interesting case of identity theft made a big hoo-ha in Morocco back in 2008, when one Fouad Mourtada was detained for "villainous practices linked to the alleged theft of the identity", of the king’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid on Facebook. The Moroccan government weren’t amused with the antics Mourtada pulled, and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Fortunately for Mourtada, he was released 43 days later after a royal pardon.
5. Can Facebook Find You A HitMan?
19-year-old Pennsylvanian, Corey Christian Adams was arrested in 2010 following a rape accusation after a party. Shortly after, he posted the following on his Facebook:
"I got 500 on a girls head who wants that bread?" and "Hit me up anyway possible".
Hooking up with a Murderer
Answering this request for a hitman, a detective took the opportunity to go undercover and gather evidence to charge him with attempted murder. He eventually set up a meeting with Adams, which Adams missed.
However, he posted another status a little later,"needed this girl knocked off right now."
Investigations revealed that those public posts were indeed directed at the victim. His stupidity aside, justice was served as he was sentenced to 11 to 22 years in state prison on charges of rape, criminal solicitation of murder, unlawful restraint and possession of an instrument of crime.
6. Blackmailing On Facebook
Divorces turn people crazy, well at least that’s what happened with 23-year-old Nigerian Afolakemi Mojisola Adeniyi. She posted a picture of his ex-husband on Facebook and tagged him as a member of the Boko Haram, a violent jihadist terrorist group in Nigeria.
(Image source: zimbio.com)
His ex-husband, Alfa Umar Gobir reported her to the police after getting calls from friends over the weekend, mistaking him as a genuine member.
For Self Defense – or Malicious Intent
In addition to the post, a caption was found below the picture, which reads:
"This is one of the Boko Haram any time you have contact with him, bomb him."
Adeniyi was duly arrested and when asked of her reasons, she replied said it was because Gobir threatened her and her child.
Heeding the advice of the police, Adeniyi’s parents approached Gobir to beg him to forgive her but Adeniyi subsequently posted:
"Am nt regrtn of d pic upload by me 2 any 1."
Police told Adeniyi and her parents that the evidence against her is sufficient to warrant a jail sentence if Gobir chose to go to the court over the matter.
7. Sharing Animal Torture On Facebook
Ever seen any animal abuse videos or photo postings on Facebook? Think those animals deserve some justice? Fortunately, in a few cases, they did get some.
An American couple, Vanessa Starr Palm & Alexander Daniel Rust was arrested and jailed in 2009 for violating an animal protection act after revealing photos of them feasting on an endangered iguana (no kidding!) on Facebook.
They have even unknowingly uploaded photos of them catching and grilling the lizard which caught the attention of many of their friends who then reported it to the police.
Losing your Head over Facebook
A mouse was decapitated with a steak knife by Naomi Anderson from Queensland, Australia. Worse still, the repugnant video was posted on Facebook (under the alias Shabella King).
The horrendous act took the poor mouse 40 seconds to die. She was subsequently ordered to serve 180 hours of community service and 18 months probation after being charged with animal cruelty in 2011.
Thankfully, she was also forbidden from purchasing, borrowing or take possession of an animal for two years.
8. The Compulsive Facebook Burglar
Here’s a funny one. Facebook addiction spares no one, not even criminals.
In 2009, a burglar by the name of Jonathan G. Parker was caught soon after the break-in because he logged in to his Facebook account on the victim’s computer and forgot to log out. After that mistake, it’s not hard for the police to trace the whereabouts of Parker during the investigation, especially since he resides in the same area as the victim.
Now, this is what I meant when I say Facebook has the potential to dominate our logical thinking.
9. Snap. Post. (Think). Share.
It is your Facebook account but sometimes there are just some things that are too inappropriate to post.
I mean no disrespect but…
A New York medical technician by the name of Mark Musarella was found guilty of disorderly conduct when he took the photograph of a strangled victim at a crime scene while on duty and posted a grisly picture of the corpse on Facebook.
Apart from being dismissed by the hospital where he worked, Musarella was sentenced with 200 hours of community service and banned from becoming an emergency medical technician ever again.
The parents of the victim subsequently filed legal suits against various entities, including of course, Facebook.
Your Photos Can Make Strangers Rich
The next time you want to post suggestive photos of yourself, do take a moment to think it through. A syndicate in Malaysia made full use of such photos, particularly of Asian girls for their call girl service on Facebook.
They featured photos of beautiful girls that were lifted from their Facebook pages without their knowledge, and asked them to pay a sum of money to reserve their services. Two men who used the service discovered the scam when the girls did not show up after they had made their payments.
10. Facebook Fugitives
Well at least Facebook can help you catch fugitives with a Facebook addiction. Some even use it to taunt their victims, and for the lack of better judgement, the authorities themselves.
Break Out and Brag
28-year-old burglar, Craig "Lazie" Lynch became an internet sensation for a brief period in 2009 when he escaped from Hollesey Bay Prison, then started taunting police on Facebook.
He escaped from a seven-year prison term for aggravated burglary and rather than hide away to relish in his freedom, he made a Facebook page for himself (which gathered 40,000 fans if you can believe that), and even called in for a phone interview with Channel 5 News in the UK. He also continuously bragged about the good life he was leading outside the prison walls.
"If any of you was doubtin my freedom. Here’s proof. How the f*** could i get my hands on a bird like this in jail. ha ha", he posts.
His stint was abruptly stopped when he was caught in January 2010.
No Laughing Matter
What about this one: a burglar broke into the house of Victoria Richardson then logged into her Facebook account (since it was still logged on) and taunted her with the successful break-in. Leaving posts like:
"i have the laptop , phones ok but a bit scratched itll do tv was rubbish so i left it ,ds was a bonuss now to the porn shop i gooo , thankyou toshiba is my favourate make
and signs it with:
"regards your nighttime burglar"
to top it off. Not only was Richardson robbed, her intangible privacy space had also been invaded.
What Does This Mean?
After going through this list of Facebook crimes, some disturbing, others absurd, I’m sure you would’ve realized the recurring trend. Both the criminals and victims commit the same mistake: oversharing without due consideration of the consequences.
I’ve mentioned in my previous entry about how we willingly share and publicize ourselves to feel connected with our social networks. Yet, as the above cases have shown, there’s a need to know where when to draw the line before things become too serious.
We’re less likely to get carried by our emotions after we set the boundary between what should and shouldn’t be shared on Facebook. As a note of precaution, always exercise discretion in how much you are willing to share about yourself on Facebook.