Facebook insists it's no haven for sex offenders

Facebook fighting to rid site of sex offenders
Facebook fighting to rid site of sex offenders

Facebook has hit back at rumours that sex offenders are taking refuge in the website, after MySpace announced it has banned 90,000 registered abusers.

TechCrunch reported this week that Facebook had seen an increase in known sex offenders registering on the site.

The information came from John Cardillo, a former New York City cop who runs internet security firm Sentinel. The news is being regarded by some as skewed, however, due to Sentinel's relationship with MySpace – being that this was the company who were employed to rid the site of its sex-pest infestation.

Protection a priority

TechRadar spoke to Facebook earlier and a spokesperson for the company had this to say: "Protecting our users, especially the many young people who use our site, has always been a top priority for Facebook.

"We have devoted significant resources to developing innovative and complex systems to proactively monitor the site and its users, including those not on a sex offender registry, for suspicious activity.

"We also have established a large team of professional investigators to evaluate any reports of potential abuse, including those surfaced by our systems or from our users."

Interestingly, Facebook claims that no cases of the site being used to solicit underage sex have occurred: "We are glad to be able to report that we have not yet had to handle a case of a registered sex offender meeting a minor through Facebook. We are working hard to make sure it never happens."

Flawed investigation

According to Cardillo, Sentinel found 8,487 registered sex offenders on Facebook in just a few days, by doing a basic search.

Facebook believes that the method used by Sentinel was flawed, with some names wrongly matching to innocent people, and that its own internal search tools are much better at weeding out the real offenders.

"We have been working proactively with states' attorneys general to run their lists of registered sex offenders against our user base," the company insists.

"Our team uses various internal tools to automatically find matches. Any potential matches are evaluated more fully by our internal team of investigation professionals. If we find that someone on a sex offender registry is a likely match to a user on Facebook, we notify law enforcement and disable the account.

"In some cases, law enforcement has asked us to leave the accounts active so that they may investigate the user further."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.