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How well do you know your 'friends' on the internet?

08:31 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The mother of Ashley Hall, who was raped and strangled by a stranger she met on the net, has urged parents to take a direct interest in who their children are friends with online. How well do you know the people who you interact with on the web?

Peter Chapman, a convicted sex offender, has been jailed for a minimum of 35 years for the murder of the 17 year old teenager who he met while posing as a teenage boy on Facebook.

After the 33 year old Chapman was sentenced, the social-networking site again urged users not to meet people who they'd contacted online unless they knew who they were, "as there are unscrupulous people in the world with malevolent agendas."

What can be done to make the internet safer? Should people have to prove their identity on sites like Bebo and Twitter and how? Do you supervise your children's access to social-networking websites like Facebook?


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  • Comment number 1.

    We have to stop removing all personal and parental responsibility from these things. As a parent, it is your responsibility to know what your child is doing and to equip them with an awareness of the dangers the internet can pose if you're going to allow them access to it.

    Its no good allowing your child to have a computer in their bedroom and to pay for internet access, and then to start bleating that the webiste owners should have prevented your daughter from going to meet a complete stranger who turned out to be a homicidal rapist. YOU are in a much better position to protect YOUR child.

  • Comment number 2.

    It doesn't sound as though Ashley's mother took much interest in her full stop. Sounds like the poor kid was used as a sitter and carer for her younger siblings and her social life was limited to online chats with friends. No wonder the poor girl was easy pickings for this evil monster.

  • Comment number 3.

    I know all my friends on facebook really well. I dont accept friend requests by strangers and I ensure my settings are that so strangers cannot read my details (or look at my photos). I do think that parents should ensure they know what there kids are getting up to on the internet. Never let kids have computers in there bedroom !

  • Comment number 4.

    The problem with the internet is that no-one ever asks the question 'what would a bad person do with it?'

    The internet is everything required by a peodophile or sex criminal.

    They can talk to each other without anyone listening, pass messages, images & videos.

    But most of all it gives them direct access to people when everyone, the young person and their parents, believe them to be safe - in the home.

    The seek out the lonely and the vunerable, they know that the reason some people stay on computer all night is because they have no friends. It is easy therefore to become their 'friend', to flatter them and tell them at least someone else is interested in them.

    The easiest (and cheapest) way to make such sites safe is to make the internet providers (and facebook et al) pay a safety levy. This pays for police officers to pretend to be young people and 'trap' these undesirables.

  • Comment number 5.

    Again, this is the responsibility of the parents, surely? If a child spends hours in their bedroom on the Internet this just isn't healthy. They need to get out and about and meet real live friends. Friends that they can bring home and the parents can see. Or perhaps I read too much Enid Blyton as a child and the way of the world now is to make virtual friends. What a tragic death.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ashley was 17. This is not a case of a paedophile grooming a child, it is a case of a dangerous rapist using the Internet to get access to an innocent victim. She could easily have been a 25 year old woman.

    So discussions about how to protect children online from paedophiles, while useful to debate, are of only tangential use in this case.

    It's all about educating people to know the risks and dangers and to do what they can to mitigate against problems.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think the media is trying all it can to breed fear. The internet doesn't need "fixing".

    It is one event, and the media bleat about it as if it compares to many dying of cancer, or road traffic accident, or alcohol related injury.

    What we need is better parenting. Maybe if the mother didn't allow the child to be raised by the internet and did it herself, she'd not be trying to blame it for her child's lack of street smarts.

  • Comment number 8.

    The only internet 'friends' I have are real life friends. I use the internet like a phone, to contact people when I need to talk, I wouldn't randomly phone people up and ask to be their friend, why would I do it on the net. I wouldn't class casual internet chat with other users as a solid basis for a relationship.

  • Comment number 9.

    We live in a society that is safer than it has ever been. And yet we are fed images and stories by the media that are far more powerful than the truth when it comes to altering our perceptions. We are a society more fearful than any that has preceded it despite living in the safest society that ever existed. This situation has been created by the media and politicians under the pretence of being our moral guardians, while seeking votes, circulation, ratings and attention.
    This was an awful, individual, act. There are some seriously mentally disturbed people out there and it is as a result of our imperfect biology and environments that these people exist.
    If we continue to legislate against the isolated cases, we only legislate against the common man (and child), further placing restictions that inevitably trigger the latent madness to be released in these isolated cases.
    We are already afraid to let our kids out the front door to play, so they sit in their rooms on their PCs. And now we find even that isn't safe. Where will it end?

  • Comment number 10.

    I know my internet friends very well. I've even met a couple in real life.

    For some reason people think the internet is full of mad serial killers just because one serial killer used it. Yes, you don't know anything about the person you are talking to initially, but they don't know anything about you either.

    If you meet with someone, do so in a safe location and tell your friends and family it's happening.

    We don't need any special 'levys' (#4!) or new rules, or ridiculously overfunded goverment bodies. People just need to stop being stupid.

  • Comment number 11.

    The only people on my Facebook friends list are, well, friends! If you don't know the person don't accept the friend invite! It's quite simple and perhaps parents should be taking more of an interest in the internet and teaching their child that they need to be careful.

  • Comment number 12.

    This event is a sadly predictable result of a trend which has been progressing for many years. We now expend vast resources on the peadophile industry of CRB checks, soon to be ISA checks.

    This approach spreads resources on checking a large number of people the vast majority of which are not paedophiles. Of the smaller number left I would suspect a large majority have never been convicted or even arrested for a crime relating to children and hence don't show up as a risk either.

    We would be much better focussing our resources on those individuals known to be a risk. This would allow much closer monitoring with a demonstrable reduction of risk to children and would still pick up those individuals known to the courts who attempt to gain access to children.

    Couple this with greater parental responsibility for childrens activity and chuldren will be much better protected than the current massively bureaucratic approach.

  • Comment number 13.

    Parents who let their children use the internet should do so only on the understanding that they're letting them into an environment that is designed for adults. The internet is not a creche, don't treat it like one.

  • Comment number 14.

    My daughter, considerably younger than poor Ashley, is well aware of the care she should take on the Internet. She knows to keep personal information to herself and her comments on the foolishness of wandering off to meet a stranger (and lying to parents about where you're going) were quite forceful!

    Evil people are out there, but only stupidity puts you in their hands.

  • Comment number 15.

    Probably not as well as I think I do - however, all my profiles etc are set to private and I never accept strangers on any social networking sites. I've also never met with anybody out of my "internet friends" in real life as I feel it could be potentially dangerous - as in the case of poor Ashleigh Hall.

  • Comment number 16.

    I found myself ranting at a columist on GMTV this morning over this issue. He was spouting the usual, ill-informed, knee-jerk reaction that something needs to be done to bring the Internet under control.

    I'll let people into a secret. The Internet cannot be controlled. It doesn't matter what measures are put in place, they can always be subverted, or worked around. All it takes is knowledge and patience.

    Wrapping kids in cotton wool and observing their every move online isn't going to work either. As a teenager, if I can remember back that far, I would have rebelled against my parents wanting to know my every move. I'd have found a way to do things without their knowledge.

    What's necessary is trust and education. Trust between parents and children, and education for both of them.

    The real question in the case that brought this to the fore isn't about the Internet though. The failings in supervision of Chapman are the real problem. That and the policy of releasing sex-offenders even though they are still considered a danger to the public.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is so sad that we need to use the internet to socialise. It's creepy, I imagine meeting all sorts of undesirables there and it does not help us to develop or maintain social skills.

  • Comment number 18.

    My only internet friends are people I have met, colleagues at work or they are members of my family.
    If I meet someone on the internet I don't regard them as friends at least until I have met them. There are too many people out there who are not what they seem.

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't have 'friends' on the internet. Never have. Never will. This is not through fear, rather through a lack of interest in that sort of medium. Having said that, I have had a good few penfriends in the past, in the old-fashioned snail mail system. It's probably safer, yet I'm not at all certain that I would have been aware of the potential dangers of corresponding with strangers at the age of seventeen. May I recommend Simon Attwood at number 9? What are we doing to our children?

  • Comment number 20.

    There are some very opinionated people on this forum (me included), but I've never been more disgusted with what I've read than with some of the posts here. You know who you are. For Heaven's sake, a mother has just lost her daughter in a horrific attack, and there are people on here trying to twist the knife. The girl's mother is trying to use this tragedy to gain publicity for safer social networking, and she should be applauded for doing so.

  • Comment number 21.

    We wouldn't need to be talking about this subject if paedophiles were kept behind bars, where they belong.

    How any sane person can think that it is right to allow convicted sex offenders to be out on the streets, is quite beyond me.

    If we are too namby-pamby to bring back the death penalty, then at least keep sex offenders locked up FOREVER.

  • Comment number 22.

    The internet is like everything else & if you treat it sensibly you can't really go wrong. It doesn't need regulation, it just needs common sense.

    I met my best friend online, we're like brother and sister now & 2 years ago I stood at her side to give her away when she got married. The world is full of wonderful people and a few idiots. Realise that, deal with it, and we won't need politicians guarding us from everything except their own excesses

  • Comment number 23.

    Parents have to monitor their children's internet usage and also other activities. It's part of being a parent.

    The internet is not a safe place for children. There is a lot of unregulated content which is shocking and unpleasant for adults let alone children and the internet affords criminals more anonymity.

    Even sensible children can be conned.

  • Comment number 24.

    Yet again, the media are blowing up an unfortunate incident to generate fear and apportion blame.

    Facebook is a medium only and as such is open to abuse, like any other. If this incident happened after a meeting in a pub, would we be hearing that pubs should become no-go zones or banned altogether?

    Educating our youngsters to be cautious about who they deal with is the answer, not to knee-jerk once again towards blame, restriction and prohibition.

  • Comment number 25.

    I don't think this is a traditional case of 'grooming' as has been suggested in the media. The girl in question was 17, she was old enough to join the Army, buy a lottery ticket or even have a sexual relationship with anyone she wanted (over 16 years old of course). She was for all intents and purposes an adult in this scenario.
    There aren't many comments on the board here yet and we've already had someone (number 4) call on the police to actually break the law to 'trap these undesirables' by having officers pretend to be young people. Entrapment has been a crime in the UK for a number of years, but there are a number of instances where it is legal - that's usually for catching unlicenced taxi drivers or pubs selling alcohol to underage people. At no point is a police officer allowed to mislead the 'suspect' - even the children employed to entrap pubs aren't allowed to lie about their age of use fake ID.
    As someone has already said, the internet doesn't need to be 'safer'. People using the internet to interact with strangers need to be 'smarter'. We certainly don't need the police pretending to be children to obtain 'evidence' that would be inadmissible in court.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps we sould ban cars after all he used a car to abduct her!

  • Comment number 28.

    It's so incredibly difficult to police the internet isn't it? Like life itself, you just do not know who to trust until you really do know the people you talk to, and, even then, it is better to be safe than sorry.

    Is age what makes life so dangerous, or is it the lack of awareness of peers, parents and people who could make it less so? It takes two to tango, but how many others have the means to prevent tragedy simply by being there?

    In the past an "unhappy" child may have chosen to "escape" via a door or a window, to take a chance on what was outside. Their safety depended on their wit, craft, maturity and awareness. Was this stuff often obtained by hanging out with mates, or were mates a risk too great to take?

    The problem we seem to have is this thing called life. It is risky, unpredictable, and untrustworthy, but you cannot survive to enjoy it without taking chances. Sometimes the chance is simply the wrong one to take.

  • Comment number 29.

    No one can get to know a person on the internet it is a smokescreen you can be anyone you want and the other person can be taken in especially young people vetting is the answer and parents have the responsibility to carry this out and although it is a hard task knowing how teenagers are it has to be done too many predators have found the perfect place to carry out their evil deeds and no child who uses the internet is safe so parents although you will be looked on as the 'baddie' you have to be resolute in your actions.

  • Comment number 30.

    Perhaps not directly to the point, but I don't have any Internet friends. I'm not interested in Facebook or other social networking sites.

    What does concern me is the fact that young girls will be flattered by "devoted attention" and being made to feel attractive, and part of growing up is taking risks - when you're young you believe it can never happen to you, it will always be somebody else, and aren't Mum and Dad getting wound up over stuff your friends are doing all the time, so you can safely ignore them. Teenagers at some point rebel in one way or another - some just take safer risks than others. The problem with the Internet is that it has made this sort of risk-taking much easier with far less information for a potential victim to go on, but it will have provided any potential offender with vast amounts of information.

    The Internet is a dangerous place in that there will be no bystanders to witness what goes on or to intervene.

    Suppose you could only set yourself up on a social networking site or join a chat room if you can PROVE you are over 21 (I have no idea how you would monitor this, I realise it is probably unrealistic)?

    And to answer the question on this HYS - sometimes we find we don't really know our friends who are physically present! so what chance with people who only tell us what they want us to know - if you can't see me, can't hear me, well, I can be anyone. Anyone of any name, either sex, any sexual persuasion, any ethnic group, any age. I understand the police have done this in order to catch paedophiles online. Not overly difficult. And if you think someone has caught on - you just disappear back into the ether.

  • Comment number 31.

    I wonder if we'll have another new labour knee jerk law thrust upon us on the strength of the (no doubt) frantic press campaign we will now be witness to. This was a tragedy, but to 'levy' charges on ISP's or network providers will only mean it'll be passed onto the user.

    As for having police online posing as young folks, apart from the legal ambiguity, I always imagine these perverts posing as kids ending up just grooming other perverts posing as kids.

    Education is needed and social network sites need to make info how you hide data about yourself crystal clear.

  • Comment number 32.

    14. At 09:43am on 09 Mar 2010, Megan wrote:

    'My daughter, considerably younger than poor Ashley, is well aware of the care she should take on the Internet. She knows to keep personal information to herself and her comments on the foolishness of wandering off to meet a stranger (and lying to parents about where you're going) were quite forceful!

    Evil people are out there, but only stupidity puts you in their hands.'

    ... your point being? Ashley deserved to die because she failed to understand the danger? Or because she lied to her parents (what child doesn't)? Or because she was not equipped with the smug 20/20 hindsight vision?

    And as for the last comment... I am absolutely speechless. You talk of having a child, yet you seem to lack any kind of compassion for other people's. The term 'stupid' is an insult to her and she is clearly unable to defend herself now. But 'evil' as you call it, is perfectly capable of manifesting itself on intelligent people, brave people, and sensible people. Was the man kicked to death in the street for remonstrating with a gang of youths 'stupid'? Were the 3000 people in the World Trade Center 'stupid' as well? I'm very glad that your daughter is safe. But please don't imagine that this gives you some sort of right to trash those who are victims. Or at least save your bile for the subhuman who committed the act!

  • Comment number 33.

    Unlike many people I have met my internet friends. I first went online in 1998, maybe before everyone was terribly worried about these things, and I made friends with lots of people from all over the world. I have, however, been selective about who I met in person and there were obviously people who I spoke to online who you wouldn't trust as far as you could throw them. I have travelled to America twice to meet people I met online, both occasions were very successful and I have made return trips to see them since. All this was as an adult when I could make informed decisions for myself.

    Children, however, should not be allowed by parents to use computers where parents cannot see them because they do not act in an informed way and make silly decisions like putting their school and their full name on their profiles and acccept friends from everyone. It is a parental responsibility where children are concerned not the responsibility of a government body to monitor peodophiles on the net - because how could anyone ever hope the be able to find all the peodos let alone track them all?

  • Comment number 34.

    "Parents should not allow they young children, under 12 years old on any computor without them to see what sites' they use and who the Friends are Because They are too many perverts, and con artist, who use the webb looking for easy targets

  • Comment number 35.

    Yeah we know BBC, you want to help the establishment regulate the internet and quash free-speech it would be nice if we could go more than a week without one of these ridiculous stories.

  • Comment number 36.

    How can anyone say they know their 'friends' really well if the only contact has been on a site like Facebook.

    'I am 23 years old, tall. slim and with long dark hair. I have many interests and am currently training to be an opera singer'

    This is of course a total pack of lies but very easy to type in!

  • Comment number 37.

    I know all of mine personally as well as via FaceBook. This is why they are friends.
    Also - Comment 1, Elvis 86: Since I can no longer reccommend posts, I need to say that I agree completely with you in mine.

  • Comment number 38.

    #13. At 09:36am on 09 Mar 2010, 23 years 8 months and counting wrote:

    "The internet is not a creche, don't treat it like one."

    No, you're right: the internet is not a big creche, the internet is tubes. Would you let your kids play with tubes?

    Thought not...

  • Comment number 39.

    Confuciousfred wrote:
    It is so sad that we need to use the internet to socialise.

    Not as sad as people thinking the internet and anything associated with it is bad just because it doesn't fit in with their own ideals of how people should do things.
    The internet is the only way I can socialise with some of my friends on a regular basis as they live in different parts of the world so they're too far to go visit in person as often as I'd like and using the standard telephone service would cost me a fortune in international calls.
    The internet, and social networking sites in particular, allows me to keep in touch with them on a daily basis, if I want to, and costs me no more than the basic internet subscription charge. For this I'm able to chat with them, send them messages, pictures, play games and video's as well as links to other websites that may be of interest to them.
    The internet has brought me closer together with friends I hadn't seen in years as well as helping me find new ones, in my opinion it is even better than the pub for this as I very rarely get to have a conversation with people from Asia, Africa & the Americas while I'm sitting in the pub.

    You can judge others as being sad all you want, the reality is that you're the one who is missing out due to your own preconceived prejudices against those who use the internet to socialise with other people.

  • Comment number 40.

    The joy of the Internet is its freedom. It is one place where you can go where you like, read what you like and post what you like - and long may it stay so. That freedom carries responsibility. If you do not wish to accept responsibility for yourself, stay away.

    This Ashley was not a baby - she was a young adult of 17. Sadly we cannot ask her why she was so mindblowingly stupid as to lie to her family and go off with a stranger she'd been chatting to online.

    And my online friends? I have met very few of them in the real world, and as most of them are scattered around the globe it is unlikely. I nearly spoke to one once, as we had both been invited to be guests on the same radio show but alas the BBC could not find a suitable studio where he happened to be at the time. But we meet through shared interests, not the wibble that passes for 'social networking' online.

  • Comment number 41.

    Each computer has an IP address to access the internet, surely the government can organise a lookup list of known sex offenders. Make it illeagal to access the internet if not registered. These ip addresses being used by social network sites to stop these people to have there actions appropriately monitored or to have restricted privedges. It is possible, might not be easy to implement but IT IS POSSIBLE. Lets get a pro-active approach going not a reactive one. Come on get some focus on this in parliament news comapnys etc

  • Comment number 42.

    As with all things, personal responsibility is required, you have to set up your privacy controls in Facebook and your other social networking sites. If the person signing up is a kid then they shouldn't have the ability to create open profiles.

    Privacy should be the default not the exception.

    Yes people will still lie but there is nothing you can do about that.

  • Comment number 43.

    It is simply not enough to trust that your offspring is doing the right thing. They are, by definition under your care until they can figure these things out for themselves.
    So, all you parents who want to be "mates" with your kids, or who want to appear "cool" (grr!) to them, just stop it and start being a proper parent - including making decisions which will make you unpopular in the interests of the childs safety.

  • Comment number 44.

    The problem i have with social networking sites such as facebook is that you can sign up to them when you're just 13 years old. However, because your age doesn't have to be proved you can quite easily put in a fake date of birth allowing even younger children to use such sites. Originally facebook was designed for university students to keep in contact but it has now become stupid. Why 13 year olds need to document every single inconsequential event of their day is beyond me. Surely the majority of their friends on social networking sites they see at school! There should be greater regulation of these social networking sites but the people behind them couldn't care less about protecting the young children using them.

  • Comment number 45.

    It is so easy to allow your youngster to spend hour upon hour in a fantasy world of Internet friends.

    It must be up to parents to monitor computer usage and to have access to who their son or daughter is in touch with.

    I have warned my grandchildren about the dangers of these sites but my words were viewed with scepticism. I'm too old, in their eyes, to know what I'm talking about. So now I have to sit and worry for them.

  • Comment number 46.

    Parental Responsibility!
    You wouldn't let you children play with knives would you? would you?

    Then why do you let me roam the internet with no parental controls in place?

    Welcome to the nulab nanny state 'it's not my fault it's someone elses!'

  • Comment number 47.

    I think it's worth remembering that real-life* friends can rape you, too. In fact, I forget the exact figure but something like 75% of rape victims know their attacker before they are raped. People who think that having "real" friends makes you immune to sexual assault want to try going to a club filled with drunk and drugged-up 25 year olds and see if you still feel the same afterwards. It seems people just rail against what they don't know - it's always those kids with their crazy music and hair, it's shameful; It wasn't like that in my day! The internet isn't a replacement for real life, but it's also not a totally separate entity. It's a part of real life. It's still people communicating, you're just using a computer instead of a phone or a letter or, indeed, speaking to one another face-to-face.

    * It always irks me when people suggest that the internet and "real life" are separate things. People on the internet *are* real. Yes, you can put on a totally different persona, but you can in real life, too. I act very differently at work to how I do when I'm out with friends.

  • Comment number 48.

    Unfortunately the Internet is so vast, that it cannot be monitored effectively. So how can parents monitor the use for their children? Well, unless they demand to monitor absolutely everything of their child's life, then they can't. Besides, what affect would it have on the child if the parents did want to know absolutely everything? I think they would grow up with major issues!

    The only way to stop children being in danger, is for parents to ban children using the internet altogether.

  • Comment number 49.

    With deepest sympathy to her family BUT

    child sexual abuse has been going on from the year dot.

    then some bright spark invented cameras, this enabled paedophiles to take pictures of their victims. Have cameras been banned?

    Then some bright spark invented moving video. Now they can take movies of their filth. Have video cameras been banned?

    We have the internet which we hear day in and day out about pictures and videos of paedohilia being traded. Then we have horror stories like these about facebook and similar sites.

    It is a very sad thing in life that the vunerable will always be a target in society.

    What can be done? Do not think there is an answer. But, from what I have read around the Internet, the banning of sites such as Facebook, is not.

  • Comment number 50.

    Lee Smith wrote:
    It is possible, might not be easy to implement but IT IS POSSIBLE.

    No, it isn't.
    We have the ability to set up a proxy server on the other side of the world that then tells every website we visit that we're a law abiding person from the U.S. (or any other country) rather than the law breaking person from the UK, this is just one of a huge number of ways we can use to change our on-line identity.

    There's then the problem with internet enabled mobile phones that anyone can buy, cash in hand, from any market in the country. Get one of these with a pay as you go SIM card and you can access the internet in complete anonymity.

    Go to any internet cafe or library in the country and you can set up a fake log in I.D. that also allows you to use the internet anonymously.

    There is absolutely no way that we can regulate the internet in the way you suggest as there are far too many ways to get around any safety systems that the government puts in place. The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to take an active interest in their lives and to educate your children to the dangers they face as well as monitoring their internet use.

    Take some personal responsibility and stop expecting everyone else to do it for you, if you want the right to use the internet then it comes with the responsibility to use it in such a way that protects yourself and those you love from those who may wish to cause you harm.

  • Comment number 51.

    Should people have to prove their identity on sites like Bebo and Twitter and how?

    Simple and easier solution regarding the proving their identity: Birth certficiates, State-sponsored ID's and other (identifications) e.g. passports that can be vertified by the authorities.


  • Comment number 52.

    ''Internet friends'' seems to me to be a bit of an oxymoron.

  • Comment number 53.

    Why don't the Govenment appoint an "Internet Czar"? He could have a substantial budget funded by the taxpayer, and employ a large team of "experts" to police the internet, set themselves arbitrary targets and then hold award ceremonies to reward themselves for doing such a good job. They would quickly find that the problem is something they haven't got a clue about, but equally quickly produce statistics to show how much better it's got since they took on the job.
    Then when there is another incident like this one they can effortlessly re-brand them selves and spend several more millions promoting themselves into the same job but with a different name. After all: that's pretty much the Governments answer to everything. . .

  • Comment number 54.

    In this life there are lots of dangers which children must be taught about. Whether it is climbing trees or playing on the internet. Nothing is safe. So why is everyone shocked about this. From the begining of time there have been nasty people praying on children. The best way to prevent this, is to get the parents to censor what they do on the internet ! So sorry......this might be against their human rights !!!!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    44. At 12:06pm on 09 Mar 2010, Richard wrote:
    The problem i have with social networking sites such as facebook is that you can sign up to them when you're just 13 years old.

    I concur. However what is worse is that I know mothers who create accounts for their children - under 10 yrs old - so that they can play the games on the site. They then invite family and friends to be "friends" with the children and complain when the children read the adult comments or swear words posted on other's pages. If the parent enters the details deliberately to lie to facebook etc about the child's age in order to create the profile how can the social network be held accountable? It comes down to parental responsibility. Or lack there of.

  • Comment number 56.

    The ones i meet on myspace and facebook are not my friends,they are my insight to another world.. I would not trust them until i met them and even then how well would i know them.
    How well do you know your friends around you?.

  • Comment number 57.

    Lee Smith (41).

    No, this would not work.

    1. It's really easy (and relatively cheap) to buy access to an offshore internet proxy, that will obscure\swap IP addresses, and encrypt the user's internet traffic.

    2. Why should taxpayers fork out millions to establish what another governmental department to oversee this?

    3. Yes, the poor lass was only 17, but she was still a *minor*, therefore parental responsibility applies.

    4. It would be possible to go the same way as China or Austrailia and implement a web filter. We could use this to block social networking and any other "undesirable" websites? But for obvious reasons, let's not go into that one eh?

    May seem heartless to say this but the ultimate responsibility in cases like these lie with social services, the police and the parents. It is not the responsibility of myself, or others like me, and I fail to see why we should pay in financial, or in terms of our privacy and liberty, to protect the incompetant and stupid.

  • Comment number 58.

    Certainly an interesting reaction from the Police Officers at the desk.

    Clearly the two male officers thought the severity of the mans claims justified being professional.

    Oh, that was another video, never mind.

  • Comment number 59.

    Sorry N0 41, but your technical knowledge is a bit off. Each Ethernet device in the world will have a unique MAC address, comprising of the Manufacturers code, date and time of manufacturing. This is only used on a LAN, and is not passed over to the internet, it stays your side of the router. It is the IP address that is then carried into the internet, However the IP address used on home computers tend to be unassigned C class (check out your friends IP address) It is these addresses that are then NATed (Network Address Table) at the ISP to another IP address that can change. Given IP v6, we could give ever blade of grass an IP number and that could solve the problem.

    With the foregoing giving some indication of my knowledge in this field, I can't for the life of me understand the need to for the use of these social network site.

    Best thing to do is chuck the whole lot in a skip

  • Comment number 60.

    Why did this monster have internet access and who was monitoring it? All very well blaming the family and the mother but this guy is well known and was left to do whatever he wanted. What happened to the offenders list etc, time the police were held responsible, they can beat a guy till he's blind, shoot electricians onm the way to work, even run up huge bills and get caught speeding but without recourse, id hate to see what their expenses are like, they are a law unto themsleves and not playing fairly and its costing the innocent hardworking people! democracy has lost out to corruption!

  • Comment number 61.

    If your kids wont let you be their friend on facebook or let you see their wall then they have something to hide that they would rather you not see... fact.

  • Comment number 62.

    "The easiest (and cheapest) way to make such sites safe is to make the internet providers (and facebook et al) pay a safety levy. This pays for police officers to pretend to be young people and 'trap' these undesirables."

    No, the easiest and cheapest way is for parents to actually watch what their kids are doing on line. Why should it be the companies responsibility? It's about time people stopped blaming everyone else and were accounted for their own actions.

  • Comment number 63.

    Is a friend met via the internet any more dangerous than one you meet at a pub?
    What evidence is there that they are more dangerous?

    On Facebook, we can get to read/see a lot more about a person than real face to face meeting, which gives us more time and material to assess a person before meeting them.

    In live situations, we can meet the wrong person, say one wrong word and wollop!

    How about this story in my local town:
    A guy met a motorcycle gang in a well attended pub. The gang leader got upset about something, so the guy took the hint and left the pub, but the gang followed. At the taxi rank, he apologised to the thug and shook hands, then wollop, the guy's jaw was smashed with an iron bar in front of everyone at the taxi rank. Not even safety in numbers there.

  • Comment number 64.

    Adults are adults - and are responsible for their own welfare in the real world and on the internet. This tragedy involved a 17 year old girl. 17 year olds can leave home, have sexual relationships, have babies etc etc. The case in question was an adult-on-adult crime. We must not structure or control the internet to mitigate potential problems with foolish or unaware adults - to do so would limit everyone's freedoms.

    There are interest groups (usually with a religious background) who will attempt to use cases such as this to further their adult-cendorship agenda. This must not be allowed happen.

    Simple lessons for everyone:
    Treat everyone on the internet as a stranger. If you decide to meet someone you've communicated with over the net, they are still a stranger. Never go alone unless you can handle yourself.

    Monitor your kids use of the net. Install a recording programme or look over their shoulders once in a while. Talk to them!

  • Comment number 65.

    Insurance, compensation, chipping - are all a case of bolting the door after the dog has bitten.

    Responsible dog owners aren't the problem, it's bonehead owners that let more powerful breeds run around, unleashed and muzzled in parks and public areas. Pre-emptive legislation is needed to contain this. The distinction of a dangerous breed may be tricky to define - so why not base control measures on biting power? Rottweilers, Bull Terriers and Mastiffs can apply significantly higher bite power and have more lethal attack patterns than most domestic dogs, which is why typically fatal attacks are caused by these breeds.

    In the past few years, my and my two children have all been chased by all three of these breeds in public areas by owners who were more concerned for their dog's freedom than any thoughts of danger or public nuisance. Both my children are now phobic about almost any form of dog.

  • Comment number 66.

    Disgusted at a number of the comments here. No. 46 and others should hang their heads in shame. A young woman is raped and murdered, but of course it's her own fault. Or her mother's fault. Next thing you know people will claim she was asking for it. Blame the victim - right? After all it's only "stupid" girls that get raped and murdered.

    Her attacker was a known rapist. He was on the sex offenders register. How was he able to disappear? Why didn't the police find him? How much effort did the police put into trying to find him before this attack?

    The internet is a red herring.

  • Comment number 67.

    More than one IT 'expert' has stated that it is impossible to control the Internet so that an individual user can be traced. I can't understand why the computer world so blindly accepts something that they cannot control. Why has the 'net been allowed to get so big and so ubiquitous that it operates outside local and national (and international) legal boundaries? It's like the Wild West - anybody can do anything and nobody can stop them. Why is this level of chaos acceptable online when it wouldn't be in the 'real' world? And why is this uncontrollable monster such a 'good thing'?

    Another point - sorry to labour this BUT... I am seeing a disturbing lack of empathy/sympathy for Ashleigh by people who value their virtual lives so much that they don't mind seeing real ones wiped out in the most brutal fashion, rather than accept any form of control of their beloved Internet existence. People love their cars too, but everyone accepts that some form of regulation on speed, ownership, usage, competency etc. is necessary to avoid even more chaos and carnage than we have already. Has the computer really desensitised us so much?

  • Comment number 68.

    There are basic rules about meeting any stranger - in any situation. Public, crowded places, with a friend initially - even have a pal take their photo so that if anything went wrong, then the police would have a face to look for. There are loads of things you could/should do. I have to lone-work quite often and I am always aware that that is exactly what I am doing. I leave the name of the person I'm visiting, their address etc in my diary on my desk. I put the time of the appointment. We have a safe-phone system where, if you don't call back by a certain time, they'll try to call you and then will alert the police if you don't pick up. This girl was not a very young child, but she was probably lonely and inexperienced. It's such a shame she met up with this monster - a man few of us would have been able to deal with on our own.

  • Comment number 69.

    How well do you know anyone? People are people, whether they are on the internet or not. There's good and bad all around you, not just on the internet. Is this the start of stigmatising/stereotyping people who use social networking & dating sites? The bottom line is, you've just got to be careful if you choose to go and meet someone you meet on the internet. Make sure it's in a public place etc... the usual advice given on sites.
    A bit of common sense can go a long way!

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 32 LippyLippo - do you really think a 17 year old young adult ought not to take responsibility for herself?

    The Internet is a red herring in that the pervert who attacked Ashley ought not to have been in a position to be able to do so. That was a failure of the courts, the probation service and the police.

    But if those who choose to go online cannot act responsibly that is nobody's fault but their own, or in the case of children their parents. That's why my daughter has been properly trained - the net nanny program has not been alerted in a long time although it's still there! And if you'd troubled to read my original comment, it was she who expressed herself very forcibly about the sheer stupidity of lying and going off with strangers! She knows better - it's not rocket science.

  • Comment number 71.

    not all child sex perverts are men, remember myra hindley?...not all burglars look like bill sykes, lets not forget that

  • Comment number 72.

    Friendship has gained new levels since the advance of technology. My boyfriend lives in America while I live in England. We have visited each other and used webcam before that, so we knew what each other looked like. Even for that, I know how to carry and use a panic alarm, an international phone card, and I know how to run, and where to kick. I know how not to get drunk and know not to take drugs. I don't give out my mobile phone number where possible, and I know how to block people out on messenger.
    Kids nowadays have no real clue how to protect themselves both physically and emotionally. They are given no opportunity to learn, because society prefers to prevent any situation arising at all, to pretend that they have stamped everything out so that there's no need to provide self-defence classes in venues accessible to those that really need it, or to counsel them on how to protect their heart and their virtue. I count myself very lucky that I learned from books and the world what parents and teachers were unwilling and unable to teach.

  • Comment number 73.

    It's completely unacceptable for any blame to be levelled at either facebook or any other networking site because of this heinous act. This man was supposed to be under continious police supervision, yet he slipped the net and struck. That is no more the fault of I as an internet user or of facebook for providing the utilities this man abused to end poor Ashleighs life.

    Of course the internet should have limitations & boundaries and in this instance it's been shown how a sick, twisted individual can manipulate the online environment to his own disgusting ends.

    However, the facts in this instance as they stand would dictate that instead of decrying internet users as insensitive cretins, we should be asking why the police failed in it's duty of care to the rest of society.

    They dropped the ball and should therefore carry the can.

  • Comment number 74.

    It stuns me how some people are so willing to blame "the internet" or at least the people in charge of the social networking sites for what happened here. What happened to this girl is truly awful and should have been prevented but NOT by the internet providers or the website owners.

    Ask yourself this, would you as a 17 year old girl walk down a dark countryside path,in a rough area, on your own in the dead of night? The answer id hope is 'no'. Why would it be no? Because its obvious a very dangerous thing to do, so this then begs the question why someone would consider that to be dangerous; but not think twice about meeting a complete stranger in a secluded location and not tell anyone else they were doing it.

    The simple fact is that the internet here is not to blame, a lack of education about the dangers of the real world is to blame. This is where the internet and the virtual life you can have creates this false illusion of the world, its almost like a childrens cartoon where everyone is nice and fluffy and friendly and nothing bad happens. The problem is the real world is not like that; and parents, the government and the bleeding heart liberals are failing young people by not adequately preparing them for life in the real world.

  • Comment number 75.

    LippyLippo wrote:
    More than one IT 'expert' has stated that it is impossible to control the Internet so that an individual user can be traced. I can't understand why the computer world so blindly accepts something that they cannot control.

    You're looking at this from the wrong perspective, people are not blindly accepting something that they can't control, they're welcoming something that gives them almost absolute freedom and something that prevents other people from controlling them.
    The benefits of an unregulated internet are immense and are becoming increasingly valuable to individuals all over the world, sadly the price we pay for this freedom is that other people also enjoy this freedom too and as with any other aspect of life some people take the freedom too far and it ends up in the realms of abuse and criminality.

    Even so, the benefits outweigh the costs. That's why we love it and that's why we don't want it to change. The technology required to enable the level of control that would be needed in order to make the internet safe would remove these freedoms from every individual all over the world and that is a price most people are unwilling to pay.

  • Comment number 76.

    I am surprised that the internet has remained free from the censorship of the market for so long. Governments no doubt have plans ready for shutting down all ISPs 'for reasons of national security' well in hand.
    People have to accept responsibility for their actions and safety. Parents should ensure their children can use the net safely.
    Otherwise we end up with Big Brother.

  • Comment number 77.

    Looking at various comments:

    Megan - I hope you never find your child/children have been "mind-blowingly stupid". I certainly was at times as a young teenager (and it had nothing to do with poor parenting). It's just that most of the time your parents don't find out, except in tragic situations such as this one.

    Re this was not a case of a paedophile grooming a child - true, but how many of us are really grown up at 17? Honestly?

  • Comment number 78.

    How about the authorites 'monitoring' known rapists instead?

  • Comment number 79.

    It is a parent's responsibility, to instil in their children the education necessary for meeting the world. When I was growing up, it seemed impossible to understand why I was told by my parents and other adults. "Do not talk to strangers". For the most part, I followed their direction. Today when I use the social networking sites, I seldom accept strangers to my page unless I am already knowing them. For today's child, this would be given; if I were a parent or guardian.

    Chat rooms and their like would be mostly empty, if children were pre-empted from them. For children and teens, living in the developed nations. Computer and other electronic gee-gaws are a necessary tool in their education. It would appear, to me, that education around letting strangers into their lives is being missed.

    It was a terrible thing, that was perpetrated on the young lady. I hope that others will understand that, they can be easily misled and use caution around invitations to meet alone.

    With condolences for her family and friends, from Nelson B.C.

  • Comment number 80.

    We tell our little children not to talk to strangers and not to take sweets or lifts from strangers. This socialy accepted doctrine needs to be applied to internet use. From a very young age we should be instilling the safety rules of internet contact to our children. Never give personal information or address/phone number. Never meet anyone on your own, take a friend, and meet in a well lit public place with lots of people around, i.e. a cafe. First meetings should always be in daylight hours. Do not believe all you see on the net.

  • Comment number 81.

    If this man was so dangerous he needed to be on a sex offender list and had to checked up on then why was he outside of a prison? Who let him out and why? Do we not need to start protecting our society and humanely keep these dangerous people away from society permanently or keep them under one to one supervision if we want to let them out of prison.

  • Comment number 82.

    The internet here is not the problem, unfortunately people have been abusing children for years, and if it hadn't have been the internet he used this time it would have been another method. Children on the internet need to be monitored, not by the state, not by companies but by the parents, in the same way the parents are expected to look after their children in any other situation.

    The freedom we have with the internet should never come into question and should never be in a position to be controlled by any state of government. It is by the far the most important invention ever and will shape a much brighter future for humans as long as we don't panic when truly terrible things like this happen and knee-jerk control over to governments with the pre-tense that they can 'protect' us and our children. We don't need the governments of the world to protect us from the internet we need to internet to protect us from the governments of the world.

  • Comment number 83.

    "Suppose you could only set yourself up on a social networking site or join a chat room if you can PROVE you are over 21 (I have no idea how you would monitor this, I realise it is probably unrealistic)?"

    Unrealistic? It's absolutely ridiculous. 21 years old! I started an apprenticeship at 16, are you seriously suggesting that I should have been kept away from the internet for another five years? Old enough to work but not use the internet, eh? I can hardly believe there are people out there with such archaic views.

    I don't use facebook myself, can't see a use for it to be honest but blaming that for eveything that goes wrong is nothing but a cop out on the parts of the parents and society as a whole. It's a communications medium, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Comment number 84.

    The stranger she met had a history of violent sexual assaults. Somebody released him into the community knowing full well they are not held accountable if this decision results in murder or further assaults. The questions should be why was he released and who are the imbeciles who gave him the liberty to commit this appalling crime?

  • Comment number 85.

    The internet is very reminisent of the old CB radio in the 80s good concept but then the idiots took over and it was finished trouble is the idiots were allowed to take over. Then as now we hear about the internet police but this is all fictitious there is no one out there monitoring. Its a free for all unless your stealing copyright or something I got hit wit a virus the other day called persSecure and its difficult to get rid of but its been aound for at least 3 years. Hardcore porn is wrapped up in innocent music downloads all aimed at the kids.Parents must regulate their kids on this internet because if they dont no one else is doing

  • Comment number 86.

    People have been mislead into a false secure society, in which everything has been protected and all is well, when clearly it is not. Our society has never been so insecure and on the most part people should fear any and all activities.

  • Comment number 87.

    The controls have to be set from home. Its no use blaming the internet. Maybe off topic slightly but can anyone explain how a double rapist can be assessed and downgraded 'medium risk' by the experts thereby letting him be required to only let the police know if he changes address...? That was the extent of his 'monitoring'and he was missing for 9 months before anyone even noticed. I despair.

  • Comment number 88.

    Whatever happened to the age old advice about being wary of strangers? Facebook and other such websites can give a totally false sense of security and,as we have just seen with this latest case,it is so easy for deceit to appear genuine - until it is too late.

  • Comment number 89.

    As a parent, I monitor my children and their access to the internet even though my son is 17. I do believe it is my responsibility to ensure they are aware of the dangers, never arrange to meet with internet friends except under adult supervision in public places, and never to give out personal details without first consulting me. But I also think it is the responsibility of the justice system to ensure that a dangerous offender who is supposed to be monitored, IS monitored. This man should have been tracked down and taken off the streets as soon as he left Merseyside without informing anyone - and to do that, someone should have been checking that he was where he was supposed to be every single week. I also believe that the media and kids' tv shows should do more to warn young people about the perils of social sites, rather than promoting them as fun and something great to do.

  • Comment number 90.

    Parents taking more responsibility for their kids! - Now that`s a novelty.

  • Comment number 91.

    I’ve met quite a few people I know through the net and of all those people only one has given me cause for concern.

    To be honest, in my view, I’m all for making it easier for people to be identified and tracked online. If you look at the problem we currently have with trolling on many communities on the net and the problems with sexual predators. The reason these people are so easily able to operate is because of the anonymity they internet gives them. Take away that anonymity and it becomes less appealing to do what they do.

  • Comment number 92.

    Be a parent






    The kid's are yours not Facebook's

  • Comment number 93.

    Beware, everybody on the Internet is either a child molester or a terrorist!

    In fact some of my best friends I have met on the Internet. Those "friends" that everyone laughs at you for having met them on that "weird internet" are:

    a) Not perverted men wanting cyber sex.
    b) Not weirdos
    c) Fairly nice people

    Government paranoia going deep. Oh Beware everybody is dangerous and by the way if you don't agree with the government then you might be dangerous. Like want to fly planes into buildings or shoot police officers.

  • Comment number 94.

    Parents should be watching their kids anyway. Don't expect the rest of the world to suffer because you can't be bothered to raise your child properly.

    Kids are for life, not just for Christmas.

  • Comment number 95.

    The authorities are prepared to bend over backwards and take the EU to court in order to be able to register law-abiding citizen and their children on various databases and keep their DNA on record.

    They want to monitor where every law-abiding citizen is at all times by using ID cards, CCTV and car tracking devices.

    They want everyone to be fingerprinted, ID'ed and catalogued yet they are quite happy to release a convicted sex offender into the wild.

    Shows where their authoritarian priorities lie, doesn't it?

    And to have the arrogance of blaming the Internet for this?

  • Comment number 96.

    I thought that the poor young lass was killed when she physically met a man who in a sane world would have been in prison. The Internet is no more dangerous than 'pen pals', answering a 'wants to meet' column in newspaper, or even accepting a lift home from a person met in a pub or club. The potential for trouble is the same, the first contact between unknowns must always be made with care, the internet has changed nothing in that respect and the rules are the same.
    The danger came from the wonderful people who run our Criminal Injustice System.(But thats another story)

  • Comment number 97.

    A free choice...if you don't trust the internet don't use it or let your offspring use it!

  • Comment number 98.

    I have met several people from the internet over the years through various clubs etc. Yet always abided by the basic rules of meet in a public place and tell people when you are back and who you are meeting etc.

    As a teacher, I showed my form how silly some of them have been on the internet. I was able to open several of their facebook profiles and read everything about them since they hadn't put in security. Followed a link to a group they were all a member of and had their full names, town they lived in, school they went to and photos complete with name tags. They were a little shocked and we then went through how to apply privacy settings to their profiles. Unfortunately a lot of the games they can play on there encourage them to add more people to their friends list to progress so they add strangers.

    There will always be ways for these predators to get access to children. The key thing is to educate them about the dangers and how to be safe online and for parents to monitor what they are up to on the computer. It might save the ever increasing problem of cyber bullying too!

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    The way in which the media have blamed Facebook for this crime makes me very angry. The fact is that Peter Chapman is a convicted sex offender who should never have been let out of prison in the first place. The fact that he was and then the authorities lost track of him yet failed to take action for some months suggests to me that it is they, not Facebook, who should be apologising. Social networking is an easy scapegoat.


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