Facebook has issued a statement in response to allegations that one of its members used the site to get nude photos of teens and blackmail them into performing sex acts.
Police have charged Wisconsin 18-year-old Anthony Stancl with sexual assault and accused him of copying female Facebook members' photos, pretending to be a girl, and persuading male schoolmates to send nude photos. Police claim he then threatened to distribute the photos to the whole school unless the boys had sex with him.
Police claim Stancl obtained pictures of 31 boys and sexually abused at least seven in school bathrooms, a parking lot, and in some victims' homes. They are continuing to investigate and search for more victims.
Facebook responded this week by acknowledging the incident and reiterating tips that users can implement to stay safe.
"Facebook seeks to provide a safe and trusted environment by offering users industry-leading tools that control access to their information, through our proactive monitoring and investigation systems, and our collaborative relationship with law enforcement," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail statement. "Our hearts go out to the victims, and we encourage everyone to exercise caution when connecting with others unknown to them online or otherwise."
Additionally, the site urges members to refuse friend requests from strangers, customize and enable privacy pages, block certain individuals from viewing profiles and even determining that they are on the site, and limit the information that various groups of friends can access.
"Facebook is about enhancing real-world relationships, not just adding as many friends as you can," the company explained. "Be wary if you receive friend requests or messages from people you do not know and don't feel bad if you choose to ignore them." The company also points out that customization allows members to add co-workers as friends but block co-workers from viewing photos.
You can establish limited views of your profile for different groups of friends by creating Friend Lists. Other users will not be able to see you or even know you are on the site.