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Facebook v Daily Mail

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:11 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

On the one hand, you have what many regard as Britain's most influential daily newspaper; on the other, a social network with more than 400 million members and global reach. The Daily Mail and Facebook are at war, with new media accused of failing to protect children - and old media in the dock for shoddy journalism.

Daily MailThe Mail has never been a great fan - "How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer" was one headline last year - but it was an article on Wednesday that brought relations to a new low. The network has been having a terrible week in PR terms, following a high-profile murder case with a Facebook connection and its refusal to put the Child Exploitation and Online Protection panic button on its site.

The Mail's coverage of this story featured a front-page report, an editorial and a big spread which included an article by a child-protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas. The opening paragraph read:

"Even after 15 years in child protection, I was shocked by what I encountered when I spent just five minutes on Facebook posing as a 14-year-old girl. Within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me."

He went on to describe how a series of men approached him and made sexual suggestions, painting a chilling picture of the dangers for teenagers using Facebook.

It has to be said the story never sounded very convincing - unlike some other networks or instant messaging services, Facebook is actually place where it's rather difficult to conduct random chats. If you were to set up a profile and just wait for "friends" to arrive, you would be likely to have to wait for days, not minutes. What's more, the company says that its privacy settings mean that a 14-year-old girl could not receive a message from someone unless they were a friend or at least shared a school network.

Daily MailFacebook says when it contacted Mark Williams-Thomas, he had a rather different story. He had been contacted by the Mail which had provided him with the material about the fake profile, but he had corrected it to make it clear that it involved not Facebook but another social network. By late yesterday, the story on the Mail's website had been amended; although it still featured a Facebook picture, it included this apology:

"In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly stated that the criminologist 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. In fact he had used a different social networking site for this exercise. We are happy to set the record straight."

I contacted Mr Williams-Thomas to check a few facts, and he confirmed that the story had indeed been "ghosted" by a Mail reporter. He says he got back to the paper with a number of changes before publication, but although they acknowledged receipt of his alterations, they were not acted on.

Daily MailThis morning the newspaper carried a apology on page 4, quite a rare occurrence for the Daily Mail. So does the matter end there? I've seen a very strongly-worded letter from Facebook's lawyers saying their clients are considering what further action to take in relation to the "false and defamatory statements in the article".

Somehow, though, I get the feeling that after a week of battling Ceop, ministers, and the media over its child protection policy, Facebook may decide that it does not really want to go to war with the Daily Mail.

Update, 1044 12 March: Well, it seems I might be wrong: Facebook is not stepping back in its battle with the Daily Mail. Last night the company challenged the paper to name the social network used in the experiment:

"We should all be concerned that their refusal to name the network they did use for the experiment is not helping to expose the real places where people are vulnerable online. We are in discussions with them and have not ruled out legal action."

I've just spoken to the child-protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas, who conducted the experiment, and he says he did not tell the Mail which network was involved, though he made it clear it wasn't Facebook.

So why wouldn't he identify it? "It would be irresponsible to name the network," he told me. "It would generate the wrong kind of traffic to the site - and could endanger attempts to improve its security." Mr Williams-Thomas went on to tell me that he thought Facebook's security, while not perfect, is among the best of the social networking sites in this regard.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The Mail's sensationalist stance in this matter is hugely unhelpful - surely it would be more responsible to educate its readers than frighten them?

    Readers may be interested in my blog, where I covered this issue yesterday:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good news item which I completely agree with.

    I read the newpaper article and, as a Facebook user myself, I found it very hard to believe. I am in favour of a free press, but having said that I think all newspapers should be forced by law to publish their apologies in the same style, with the same prominence and font-size that they published their original (false) attention-grabbing headline. Burying a retraction in small-print is a cowardly way of acknowledging they got it wrong after damage could have already been done.

  • Comment number 4.

    I could get very het up about the Daily Mail - but then again, why bother? I rate its stories on a par with the Sport and the National Enquirer - Entertaining in a prurient and mean-spirited sort of way, but nothing on which I would base any real analysis or understanding of a story. Just a shame some people seem to mistake it for a serious newspaper...

  • Comment number 5.

    If it was Panorama reporting this they would be made to post an apology, why can newspapers who have far more influence get away with blatant lies. This isnt free press its propaganda.

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    I totally agree with the comment above that all apologies should be printed in the same format that the original article was published in. Would make newspapers, particularly the Daily Mail, think twice before printing complete and utter rubbish if they new there was a chance they would be forced to waste a days front page with an apology.

    I also think the media, including the BBC, needs to get some perspective before it starts branding people as "The Facebook killer". If someone was curb crawling young girls the make of their car wouldn't feature in the news and if a killer met their victim in a bar the name of the bar would not get printed in the headlines. Sure mention the facts of the case that include Facebook but do you really need a huge Facebook logo behind Hugh's head on the news at Ten?

  • Comment number 8.

    It still always amazes me how we let journalists get away with such blatant lies and swallow anything that's printed / published online. And yet if you ask anyone do you trust journalists you get a resounding No!

    The Daily Mail have been a joke for years now but a large number of the British public take whatever they say as given. After there attacks on the BBC it is now the Internet and primarily Facebook. Yes, there are nasty sick people using the Internet but they represent a very small minority but if you read papers like the Mail everyone is pervert on the internet.

  • Comment number 9.

    Does it really matter? There are more serious things happening in the world to worry about than what a third rate tabloid wants to print. They are obviously desperate to sell papers! I suspect if the the Daily Mail was free their readership would not increase!

  • Comment number 10.

    I read the article and did wonder which social networking site they were using, as Facebook really does not lend itself to approaches from people you don't know.

    Perhaps the Daily Mail would have been wiser to publish the name of the site where it did happen, so that we parents can block our children from using it, rather than taking a sensational approach to a site which is generally (i.e. if you use it properly and only accept friend requests from people you know) fairly safe.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Daily Fail...sorry Mail strikes again! "How can we appeal to our readers - oh of course let's talk about Facebook - people have heard of that interweb site haven't they?". Shoddy doesn't even cover it - all they do is youth-bash (they do all the things that we used to do, but now it's 'anti-social') & now they're encroaching on (more) things they know nothing about.

    Most people (BBC Tech included) look at the positive changes brought about by online social networking & highlight some potential issues. The Mail just bring in rubbish like it will give you cancer (last year) & only look at child protection issues & secutiry/ID issues.

    They're so out of touch it's crazy! I'm not a subscriber to that manner of journalism, but I challenge anyone not to be offended on any day of the week if you flick through that pile of faux-journalism.

    From a frustrated youthworker & advotate of misrepresented young people - we're ALL people, the young, the old & the rest of us somewhere in the middle.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have never been a fan of Facebook, I see people who are so hopelessly addicted to it that they will write on someones wall rather than walk across a room to talk face to face. But I would never call it unsafe, in relation to other internet sites I think its security is admirable. This kind of sensationalist reporting is beginning to invade many media outlets and it has to stop. In other news reading this comment may make you a member of al-quaeda, a paedophile and give you cancer. turn to page 8 to find out more....

  • Comment number 13.

    So much for their retraction, the title of the web page for that article still clearly states 'Facebook'.

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh dear, I see my post at (6) has been refused. A bit ironic that I was quoting from a classic BBC sit-com (Yes Prime Minister) about the readership various daily newspapers.

  • Comment number 15.

    This is just so typical of trash fleet street journalism. They print a totally bogus and defamatory article occupying at least an entire page, then retract it with a 3x3 inch segment of a column buried 4 pages into the paper.
    I think if they print retractions like this, then the retraction must occupy the same amount of space as the original piece of rubbish.
    I think its high time sensationalist printed tosh like them and some others in Fleet Street face the music, see that the Internet is becoming the new primary source of news, and pack the printed sheet in. This wont be the only case of utter rubbish printed in what is essentially looked upon my many in the country as authoritative and accurate all of the time.
    Straight up lies like this are good enough reason for everybody in the country (world?) to stop buying their paper (it would if it weren't for the sensationalist angle it always conjures up), so maybe they'd move wholely onto the internet where their crap will slowly fade into the masses of other rubbish on the internet.
    FecesBook, too is indeed an information theft haven and a platform for criminals to operate, but the Mail are just getting every part of their criticisms for it wrong, rendering their paper unfit for the purpose it was originally (back in the day) intended - remind you of a certain consumer protection law?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not suprised by this story. The rare times I've read an article in the tabloids about something I knew about personally, it's been the same. In the 70's I worked for the NRPB and had to spent a week covering the Windscale Inquiry for the Director. There was a reporter for the Daily Mirror, who seemed to be asleep the whole time, and the articles he wrote could only be described as works of pure fiction.

  • Comment number 17.

    The does sum up the quality of reporting in the Mail for me.

    And overall facts should never get in the way of a story.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is maybe the one case where facebook should "go to war", or rather, into the courtroom. Bedevelling social networking sites does not help anyone; what it needs is an accurate, informed picture and not sensationalism. "Old media" such as newspapers (and TV stations) should see themselves as the piece in the chain that bridges the information between kids who know everything about the internet and informing the rest of the family who might only be starting out on potential dangers - and do it ACCURATELY!

  • Comment number 19.

    I totally get the freedom of the press and all that, but why does the law not demand that an apology for an incorrect or inappropriate story not get equal prominence with the original? If the Mail does a front page splash like this then surely the apology should also be a front page splash? Might make them think a bit more!

  • Comment number 20.

    Whether this article was genuine or not is irrelevant. This whole campaign by the DM against Facebook and other social network site is ludicrous.

    While I would agree that such sites have guidance on how their product should be use and how to safe safe, at the end of the day it is a tool. It is the same if I buy a tool from a DIY store. The guidance should be there on how to use it safely but the store (or manufacturer) can not be held responsible I ignore this advice and get hurt as a result.

    Where are the parents in all this? Why aren't they advising their children how to use these product responsibly?

    But then thisis typical of the world we live in today. Take no responisbilty for anything and blame someone else.

  • Comment number 21.

    No surprises there then. The pompous Daily Mail is just a sensationalist rag no better than a comic that panders to Right wing loonies. If there isn't a sensation it just invents one.
    Remember the good old days when Newspapers actually reported news and if you wanted to read about vacuous so called Celebs you bought a magazine.
    So called Journalists should be ashamed to publish these blatant lies and scare stories.
    I suggest the public cancel their subscriptions to these rubbish rags and buy a good book. its likely to be more truthful and better written.

  • Comment number 22.

    Retractions should be made using the same font size as the original banner and on the same page as the original with an equally sized link on the front page. The gutter press is not interested in the truth, sensationalism sells and the resultant increase in circulation means more money from advertising.

  • Comment number 23.

    What, the Daily Mail being full of utter rubbish?

    Never! ;-)

  • Comment number 24.

    All wise words - but by its very nature, Facebook may not have an option to chose not to go to war with the Daily Mail.

    With 400 million users, all able to start their own causes, groups etc etc - and many of whom will no doubt want to defend their social network of choice - the Mail may find it gets a pretty rough ride anyway.

    Facebook 'corporate' may not want a war. But Facebook users don't really need to stage a coup to kick-off. That's the beauty of social media.

    And frankly, the Mail deserves everything it gets.

  • Comment number 25.

    Why doesn't Mark Williams-Thomas write his own articles?

    Isn't it a concern that 'experts' lend their name (and hence some gravitas & credibility) to articles which are in fact ghosted by the publication's own hacks to suit the publication's agenda?

  • Comment number 26.

    Who cares what the Daily Mail has to say? About anything?? I scan my (non-blood relative)'s copy once every few months to confirm that it STILL contains no actual news - just ill-informed, reactionary scaremongering/bile.
    I would imagine that Mail readers generally fall into one of two camps: 1) too straight-up mental to be able (or willing) to use the internet or 2) fully paid-up members of the worst kind of ultra-conservative, ultra-christian, eugenics sites.
    That said, Facebook users should delete the 'fresh air', 'weather', and 'human contact' apps from their i-Pod touches and go outside and try the real thing.

  • Comment number 27.

    Here's the irony...

    With it's mission statement to spread fear and misery over the land, to raise people's blood pressure and make us scared of our own shadows, perhaps it is reading the Daily Mail that gives you cancer - rather than having a cottage in Surbiton, or knowing a Frenchman, or being called Julie, or whatever tripe they're peddling this week.

  • Comment number 28.

    I look forward to the satire that the Daily Mash site will make of this...

  • Comment number 29.

    Interesting to note that on-line the Mail still hasn't changed the URL of the story, it still shows Facebook. And there are links within their fabrication to other Facebook bashing stories of theirs.

  • Comment number 30.

    Following the Max Mosley case, Paul Dacre (Daily Mail Editor) made a speech in which he set out his belief that newspapers such as his were the only and final defence against wickedness and sin in British society. It rang of laughable irony then, and this story merely strengthens the irony.

    It's a crying shame - because a couple of decades ago, newspapers were genuinely campaigners fighting for the rights of the people against the corrupt. But now, they are nothing but celebrity-obsessed and prurient snooping gossip mongers at best, and downright liars at worst.

    They know that the web is winning the battle for people's attention and for advertising revenues. They know their days are numbered. A cynic might wonder if fabricated articles such as this were an attempt to slow the demise of newspapers by turning a few people away from the web.

    As for Facebook's "refusal" to add a CEOP button, why should they? There's not a panic button provided on every lamp-post in the country - and why should the online world be any different from the real one?

  • Comment number 31.

    Sadly, this is all too common among newspapers.

    First, you print a huge front page splash with a whole bunch of stuff that has simply been made up. It achieves the desired effect and increases circulation.

    Then, a few days' later, after you've been caught out, you publish a small apology on page 27 that no-one is ever going to read.

    Perhaps it's time to consider some sort of regulation of newspapers?

  • Comment number 32.

    I seriously doubt whether a "CEOPS Panic Button" would have worked in this case, or indeed in many of the similar cases we see. It depends on the victim being suspicious of the person with whom they are communicating - and these people do their best to seem reasonable in order to tempt their victims to a meeting!

  • Comment number 33.

    We'll also ignore the irony of having Facebook on the "Share this article" bar below the clarification.

    Shared none the least, with a link to here...

  • Comment number 34.

    The Daily Mail in their apology state that the criminologist "had used a different social networking site for this exercise."

    I can't help but wonder why this social networking site was not "named and shamed" in the same manner as Facebook in the original article.

    I assume the Daily Mail didn't fancy their chances in a fight with Murdcoh and News International.....

  • Comment number 35.

    The Daily Mail is the reason that Free Press should not be allowed

  • Comment number 36.

    I continue to wonder at the way in which journalists will use information to their own ends, that and the continued lack of personal responsibility that individuals display.

    The facts are that a researcher posed as a teenage girl to see what would happen. The people who responded did so in an inappropriate fashion, but what no journalist says is that its shocking that the responding individuals involved are reckless or irresponsible, or that had the researcher really been a 14 year old girl, that she would have been irresponsible to place herself in the position of receiving explicit mails from men who should know better; or for her parents being irresponsible for allowing her access to the internet without controls being placed on the PC she was using.

    No, the journalists seek to place the responsibility on the corporate body, Facebook in this case. Anyone who uses a Social Networking website will know that they all have controls available to allow people to protect themselves from unwanted or inappropriate attention. Or if some is received from someone you can then bar them from further communication.

    It seems to me that over the last 40-50 years, people have sought and acheived greater personal freedom. Yet in tandem, a large section of society wants 'the state' or 'the establishment' to protect them to a greater level. Surely this is a contradictory situation and what society has to do is understand how to have freedom and take responsibility for it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Anyone who is surprised that the Daily Mail is full of scare-mongering lies should be locked up for their own protection and given instructions on the benefits of regular breathing.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Somehow, though, I get the feeling that after a week of battling Ceop, ministers, and the media over its child protection policy, Facebook may decide that it does not really want to go to war with the Daily Mail."

    But this is a clear case of defamation, with false claims that will obviously cause damage to Facebook. The Daily Mail's left them an open goal in court.

  • Comment number 39.

    A few years ago genius satirist Chris Morris gave us an episode of Brasseye that featured, among other things, a report that online paedophiles could release a gas from the keyboard of their child victims which made them more suggestible.

    I'm pretty sure that the Mail wanted Morris' head on a spike at the time, which makes the irony in this story all the more delicious.

    I'm just surprised they haven't blamed it on immigrants, yet.

  • Comment number 40.

    Re Selby Jay @10:Perhaps the Daily Mail would have been wiser to publish the name of the site where it did happen

    You are assuming that it actually happened at all, and with the Mail, that is not a safe assumption.

  • Comment number 41.

    No surprises here then. The Daily Mail making up rubbish? Who would have thought!

  • Comment number 42.

    How about we turn the tables on the Daily Mail ?

    I posed as a dead gay pop star and what happened will sicken you !

  • Comment number 43.

    @3

    Have to say that is a cracking idea, would certainly stop poor reporting in its tracks.

  • Comment number 44.

    I find this story so depressing. The Daily Mail really should simply be a proscribed publication. The problem with the "what's the problem" argument is that it assumes the people that read it understand that what is being printed is complete rubbish. Unfortunately, they don't. These same people complain crime is rising, that there's a mugging every 10 seconds or whatever, yet have no personal experience of it at all because it's simply not true.

    The Daily Mail is, unfortunately, proof positive that there's one born every minute and will believe anything that's printed.


  • Comment number 45.

    As no sensible person is going to take the Mail seriously, or even bother reading it, I don't think this matters that mutch.
    Just because the Mail contains no nudity, doesn't mean people should take the paper any more seriously than papers that do have page 3 girls.

  • Comment number 46.

    I bet facebook fancies itself in this 'war'. Remember the xmas number one 'war', if a facebook group has the power to overcome the mighty cowell im sure it will sweep aside the mail without even breaking a sweat.

  • Comment number 47.

    It says to me that the normal business of news media is to print controversy, bad news or death because the real aim is to make a sale not tell the news. So it's quite nice to see that the falling trend of newspaper circulation continues unabated. That the business is sales not news is completely reaffirmed by this story.

    I recently saw several copies of The Sun -- I would never buy it. Could I find any 'news' in there? There was a lot of coverage (normally with large pictures) of mainly footballers and their female companions. Adjectives such as 'cheating this' and 'stunningly attractive that' just reinforce the message to me that they are not 'news'-papers but simply magazines to titillate.

    As I said the public are tending to turn away from these organs of a few rich people. The fragmentation of the news industry by the coming of the Internet (please note BBC: Internet has a capital 'I') is very much to be welcomed.

    What interesting times we live in.

  • Comment number 48.

    It seriously amazes me that people continue to read this newspaper, its continual lack of accurate and fair journalism is nothing but abysmal.
    I am not so much disappointed in the newspaper, but more disappointed in the readers who actually believe everything they say.
    The Daily Mail, is little more than The Sun for people who think they are too good to read The Sun

  • Comment number 49.

    News stories like this (and the countless trivial rubbish about celebrity lives) are the reason i read all my news online rather than in the papers. You can't trust anything you read in a paper anymore and i think it's sad. There have been two occasions where my local paper has had small stories on people my family know and both times they got clear facts wrong! (in one case both the name and the illness recovered from were incorrect.)
    I use facebook and although I'll admit it has dangerous addictive qualities if you plan to make productive use of your free time, it is perfectly safe as long as it is used sensibly.

  • Comment number 50.

    OMG talk about DIY story telling.
    anyone can be anyone on the internet.

    "Im a 14 year old axe murder hunting pedos on facebook"

  • Comment number 51.

    "As no sensible person is going to take the Mail seriously, or even bother reading it, I don't think this matters that mutch."

    Unfortunately, Glen Haig, a lot of people do take the Daily Mail very seriously.

    Aside from being the second most read daily in the UK, it also pretty much sets a lot of the news agenda that most other media organisations (BBC included) tend to follow.

  • Comment number 52.

    Supposing somebody started a fire - say an arson attack - and a copy of the Daily Mail was used as the torch to set fire to the building - would it be the Daily Mail's fault or responsibility?

    Or imagine somebody read something interesting and learnt something in the Daily Mail - now that is a scenario I certainly cannot imagine happening.

  • Comment number 53.

    Looking at comments on other sites (The Independent) I saw listed as 02:24 pm (UTC) a comment "The Mail journalist who allegedly perpetrated this disinformation looks such a nice lady... on her Facebook profile" with a link.

    That link is now dead. Seems an irony there.

  • Comment number 54.

    To be fair, someone who said they were a middle-aged man, who then said they wanted to perform a sex act in front of them, is far more likely to actually be a 13 year old boy. Hint: Paedophiles tend not to admit that they are paedophiles.

  • Comment number 55.

    What on earth was that man doing impersonating a teenage girl and encouraging sexual-themed conversations?

    Is that not illegal? Surely it is - it is perverted?

    And the Daily Mail was party to this behaviour?! Can they not be prosecuted too?

  • Comment number 56.

    "Somehow, though, I get the feeling that after a week of battling Ceop, ministers, and the media over its child protection policy, Facebook may decide that it does not really want to go to war with the Daily Mail."

    I've got a feeling that they may well decide it's a very, very good idea to go after them. Managing to get a story to blow up that centres around their safety features, would probably put a rival in the spotlight, and do damage to one of their critics? Could have a field day.

  • Comment number 57.

    I wonder what's more worrying, whether it's the assertion that "many regard [this newspaper in question] as Britain's most influential daily newspaper", or that the newspaper was economical with the truth on this and many other occasions?

  • Comment number 58.

    A very shoddy piece of journalism designed to attract maximum publicity, and once more does so without being factually correct!

  • Comment number 59.

    I would never call myself a fan of the Daily Mail and agree that they are often sensationalist about youth, however, as a teacher, I am highly concerned about Facebook and its use by young people. Someone on here earlier stated that they admired Facebook's security. I disagree entirely. Facebook, aside from being totally unmoderated, has rules which are far too easy to breach. I have children aged 7 and 8 in my class using Facebook. They only have to make up an age and fake school to gain an account. From then on, it is up to them to set whichever security options they wish. Despite now teaching E-safety in school, children will always follow the advice of their parents, over that of teachers. Unfortunately, some parents do not understand the potential risks facing their children when they log on to Facebook. It isn't just about cyberbullying or potential paedophiles - it's also about the content they can access on the website. The language on there is obscene at times. As an adult, I can choose what to look at or ignore. I use Facebook regularly and am not someone "out of touch" as another poster suggested. When all we schools talk about is Safeguarding and Child Protection, it amazes, saddens and shocks me that parents can be so lenient in the protection of their own children.

  • Comment number 60.

    No. 1, Being_Safe_Online: I used to think this type of "news" was also being "sensationalist." I worried about the Internet enough, but derided those who whipped others up into a frenzy almost akin to "hysteria."

    And then it happened to me. First, to our daughter. And then, far more dangerously, to our youngest son.

    We have been dealing with the wreckage from all this insidious predatory seduction that does indeed go on for quite a number of weeks now. In our case, thankfully, there will be -- it looks like -- two happy outcomes.

    But trust me: suicide pacts, cult-like groups, ominous threats and stalking are just the very minimum of what can rapidly escalate into a major life drama, complete with hospitalisations and actual brushes with death.

    From an economic perspective, there comes an impact on social expenditures (law enforcement & medical costs), waste of resources (schools with distracted students) and losses in productivity (traumatised adults as well as children who require additional care).

    Please allow this very much chastened (and generally quite competent) mother to assure you, on behalf of many many other parents too busy to write: abuse of networking sites, weak protections, invasions of the home and even plots to ensnare gullible youngsters in schemes that can even lead to serious crime, complete with threat to blackmail (and opportunities to extort, to steal data and take over identities) is indeed a very serious and escalating problem.

    Young children and young people with very little experience of the seedier side of life, or with insufficient wits & imagination to conceive of evil or deceit hiding behind a pretty picture expose entire households, businesses, even large companies to real danger. They do so unwittingly, out of the best of intentions and often for the simple reason that they have very good manners.

    British children in particular, many of them, are especially well-mannered. That makes them especially vulnerable. It is actually the "good kids" who are the most vulnerable, in fact.

    All it takes is these words: "I would do anything for you. Would you do anything for me?" Kids are very honest, and honest kids like to keep their word... They have no way of being able to begin to imagine the harm they can cause just by acting on what seems like a simple promise to a "nice" person...

    Something needs to be done. We were the lucky ones. Others might not be.

  • Comment number 61.

    The Daily Mail is certainly a sensationalist Newspaper and often in quite disturbing ways. For example, they seem to go out of their way to find crimes committed by immigrants (crimes that would never normally make national news) and write in depth articles on them.

    Perhaps this is not too surprising if taken in an historical context. The Daily Mail did after all carry the infamous article "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" back before World War 2. Their politics doesn't really seem to have changed that much.



  • Comment number 62.

    The DM is going to lose this and fast.
    You don't go against the internet, they will take you down and fast.
    And no I don't mean the childish 4chan 'raids' on sites like mumsnet, although one on Daily Mail would be actually quite funny and as they say on the net, provide me with the 'lols'.

  • Comment number 63.

    Having worked for the publisher of the DM, it often seemed to me that the editors and lawyers were less worried about the accuracy of the facts, and more concerned about how to avoid defamation/slander/etc. by way of creative editing/loopholes.

    Still it's always good to see a retraction about lies they've printed (in tiny font on the back pages of a section nobody reads).

  • Comment number 64.

    Re quijote1303 @52 Supposing somebody started a fire - say an arson attack - and a copy of the Daily Mail was used as the torch to set fire to the building

    Now imagine that they're torching the Daily Mail offices....

    ...that's it, just imagine it, it'll make you feel better.

  • Comment number 65.

    Re kcmatt @59:

    Facebook, aside from being totally unmoderated,

    It is not. They have a well developed and active 'Report Abuse' system.

    it is up to them to set whichever security options they wish

    So people are in control of their own information, as opposed to having their decisions made for them? And you think that's a bad thing?

    children will always follow the advice of their parents, over that of teachers

    Ah, so that's your beef. That your control of other people's children isn't as absolute as you'd like.

    You might not call yourself a fan of the Mail, but would you call yourself a regular reader of it?

  • Comment number 66.

    I would love to see Facebook sue the Mail for libel. There are many occasions where the tabloids write false and scaremongering statements, but where it isn't illegal (due to not referring to a specific person), and I'm not sure it should be illegal. But this is a clear cut case of defamation, surely?

    But even the BBC could do better though - why is this labelled "Facebook murder" in the headline?

    And possibly I'm missing something here, but wasn't she 17? What does pedophilia or child protection have to do with this? The problem was that he murdered her, not that he was going after underage children - as he wasn't. Yes, I know that we now live in a country where the pedo-hysteria is so bad that even naughty cartoons of 17 year olds are illegal, but the fact of the matter is that at 16, you are a consenting adult. It would still have been a tragic murder no matter how old she was. What good would a magic button for children do? Expressions such as "grooming" (as used by the Mail) are not relevant, nor should the Child Exploitation and Online Protection be using this to force websites to install nanny buttons.

  • Comment number 67.

    I have never been so astonished in my entire life. There are still people out there who think the Daily Mail publishes news stories? Remarkable. Whoever would have thought that possible? I guess they can't be reading it...

  • Comment number 68.

    This highlights the fundamental reason why The Daily Mail has absolutely no authority on anything. They take an expert in the field, use his name and then use a ghost writer to produce a 'story'. This is exactly the reason why we see so many 'xxx gives you cancer' stories. There are excellent quality science and nutrition based journalists out there, but there's no interest in printing their reports because the unqualified journalists can make up baseless rubbish that is printed for no other reason than they believe will sell more papers. I'm surprised the EU hasn't stepped in to tell them they can't call themselves a 'newspaper'.

  • Comment number 69.

    This is just another example of why we need the BBCs neutrality in the digital age, otherwise our only source of news would be in the form that Rory describes.

    The newspaper printed an apology, that doesn't mean they're sorry, it's just a formality. Quite often, newspapers will say things which they know are a lie, and they know they might get sued because of it. But the increase in publicity is often considered to be worth more than the consequences of printing.

    The reality is that anyone can use any form of digital communication to perform illegal activities, we live in an age now where the individual (and parents) have to share responsility. Facebook probably should add a Ceop button, true, but I agree with Rory, it's nowhere near as bad as the Daily Mail suggested.

    Every time these sort of stories come out, the newspapers hurt themselves more and the BBC gain more respect. So keep them coming, Daily Mail!

  • Comment number 70.

    I wouldn't trust the the Child Exploitation and Online Protection, or Mr Williams-Thomas, these people protect Pedophiles not children, please click on the link and read, Jim Gamble of the CEOP was head of operation ORE, and is a friend of Gerry McCann.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/10/ore_case/page2.html

  • Comment number 71.

    "what many regard as Britain's most influential daily newspaper"

    You are joking, of course !

    Apart from regular readers of this rag, surely most people think it's the WORST of the tabloids, with incredibly low standards of journalism, and a sensationalist, far right-wing, authoritarian approach.

    And its influence is almost negligible.

    This year's prize for the most influential newspaper must go to the Telegraph for its expose of MP expenses.

  • Comment number 72.

    If I was a journalist, I'd be ashamed to have 'Daily Mail' on my CV. Quite frankly, I'd consider it a career-killer. Or perhaps it's where they go when they can't get jobs elsewhere?

    Whichever, it's all pretty pointless: the great majority of DM readers seem to be women over 60, who will probably never go near an email, never mind Facebook.

    As for the relative safety of the internet: it's the whole world out there. Just because you're in your living room doesn't make you any safer, if you're going to let the whole world in. Exercise the same caution you would out in the real world, and you'll be fine. You teach your kids not to talk to strangers, don't you? And as for 'obscene language', kids will hear that out in the street, and on TV, and in films, all the time: what makes you think they should be prevented from seeing the words written down on an internet site?

    Finally, there are tribal societies out in the world where children are raised naked, amongst adults who are almost naked. These children witness sexual acts between adults, and often begin practising sexual acts themselves at a much earlier age than children in Western societies. These societies don't seem to suffer from rape, sexual murders, paedophilia, or any other of our "civilised" perversions. Funny, that.

  • Comment number 73.

    Re: 1044 update

    Why was it OK to splash Facebook's name all over the original article (when that definitely wasn't the site involved) if it's not OK to mention the name of the site that was actually used?

    I suppose that might have been one of the changes Mr Williams-Thomas wanted to the original article, but even so it seems like double standards to me.

    Almost like the Fail has an agenda against Facebook...

  • Comment number 74.

    Where would we be without the Mail & its responsible journalism?
    In a much better place I think...
    Quite what they have against FB is a mystery.
    And the PCC should make papers print retractions & apologies to the same size as the offending article. Perhaps they might check facts before printing what amounts to lies...

  • Comment number 75.

    "...you have what many regard as Britain's most influential daily newspaper..." Alas, I fear this is true. I can think of no other mainstream British newspaper who've furthered the prurient cause of bigotry, closet racism, homophobic loathing and religious intolerance and am ashamed that this tripe is tolerated in our country.
    The Daily Mails editorial standards reported upon within this article are representative of a long history

  • Comment number 76.

    'And its influence is almost negligible'

    To the many people who have said things along this line, or that only the stupid take any notice of it, or that it has no relevance, I'm afraid that is simply NOT true. It's what we would like to be true, or what should be true given it's agenda and reputation for accurate reporting, but it isn't true. It is one of the most influential - possible *the* most influential paper in the country, precisely because of it's circulation amongst 'Middle England.' I have a friend who is a fairly senior manager in a particular government department that is often the recipient of DM bashing. He tells me that the moment the Mail runs an anti-department front page the **** hits the fan and emergency meetings are called to ask 'what can we do about this? How can we turn this around' and everyone is running round like a headless chicken. Govt departments sit up and take notice because they know the voters take notice. Sad, but true.

  • Comment number 77.

    @7

    and if a killer met their victim in a bar the name of the bar would not get printed in the headlines

    Really?

    says otherwise.

  • Comment number 78.

    The Daily Mail is a terrible paper which appeals (mostly) to 50+ women. I think the style and tone of their articles have to be seen in this context. The 'digital media is scary and dangerous' angle appeals to its readership and that particular prejudice is presumably reflected in readership surveys which (again presumably) support the fact that such ill informed bigoted views sells many more papers than reasonable or educative opinion. To get angry about its coverage is to bestow too much dignity on its operation IMHO (this is after all a newspaper in the loosest sense of the term).

  • Comment number 79.

    Mark Williams-Thomas will say anything to save his skin in my opinion. He's nothing but a rent-a-mouth. With him, it's a case of he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

  • Comment number 80.

    Sadly for Mark Williams-Thomas it may be that no one is able to take anything printed against his name seriously, ever again. This should serve as a stark warning to any so-called expert comfortable with offering up such control over their own reputation and expertise; particularly to a rag as toxic as the Mail.

    Hope he thinks twice in future.

  • Comment number 81.

    Since when has the Daily Mail been "Britain's most influential daily newspaper"? I don't think anyone with even a tiny bit of common sense actually takes it 100% seriously, and if such a person does exist, they would be in some bunker to protect themselves from the world we live in, in which everything gives you cancer.

  • Comment number 82.

    Just in case you haven't figured it out... the site was obviously myspace.

  • Comment number 83.

    What can I say, but this just goes to prove that all facts must be checked ad double checked before publishing.

    What happened is something I would expect of the "new media" ie a blogger, and not from an old media publication which is supposed to have standards of journalism.

    Shame on the Mail, although I'm not surprised.

  • Comment number 84.

    This is not an isolated incident. The Daily Mail is pure propaganda - a trashy, lie filled book for morons who are angry at the world. It continually deludes the population with ideas of a 'Broken Britain'. A pretentious concept by rich snobs to downgrade the youths and working class in an ever evolving society leaving them left behind. Facebook, among other things, is an invention of today - an easy target for those who cling to yesterday and resist social improvements. From its poorly written articles, to its giant frontpage headlines, it is designed to shock. Targeting those who cannot vote for themselves, the bourgeoisie make their comeback in a world that they had ruined under Thatcher. The Nasty Party return through this crude form of media with a man of only nine years of experience at the helm. Open the Daily Mail with a sceptical mind prepared, or succumb to the steady stream of conservative rants and the mental starvation of real news.

  • Comment number 85.

    Off topic a bit, but would that Panic Button the Ceop are trying to force Facebook to have on every page have saved Ashleigh Hall?

    I don't think it would have made any difference

  • Comment number 86.

    @84 - The Nasty Party eh? Well, I would ask you which party has betrayed its roots more than the others? Which party leader uses a mantra about 11 straight years of increased spending only to get found out that it was a lie? Out of four MPs being charged for fiddling their expenses, which party are three of them from?

    Which Party have decided to fight a class war, in by doing so are further reinforcing the notion of class and holding people back so as to retain their core vote?

    There is no such thing as class anymore, you can be what you want to be - all it takes is effort.

    I would prefer a man of no experience against an unelected failure any time.

    I do agree though the Daily Mail is a rag (like most of the papers) and is designed to appeal to people who are as outdated and misinformed as those who think that the labour party is still the voice of 'the working class'.

    To address the article - I concurr with previous posters that an apology if merited should be written in the same style with the same paper space as the original guilty article. Facebook should persue them with such vigour that they spend so much time in court they cannot make any more stories up.

  • Comment number 87.

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

 

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