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Facebook alerted police to man's online sex chat with teenage girl

Many Florida readers might be surprised to learn that Facebook has an extensive technology for scanning postings and chats for Internet sex crimes. Suspicious conversations are automatically flagged for the review of Facebook employees.

That technology was recently used against a man in his early thirties who was chatting on the Internet about sex with a 13-year-old Florida girl. The conversation, involving a plan to meet after the end of the girl's middle-school classes the next day, was flagged by Facebook's screening technology and reviewed by company employees, who called the police. Local police seized the teenager's computer for use as evidence and arrested the man the next day. The man has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.

In Florida, allegations that an adult used the Internet to arrange a sexual encounter with someone under the age of 18 may constitute a third-degree felony. Actually traveling with the intent to meet a minor to engage in sexual activity is classified as a second-degree felony.

If you suspect that you will be approached by law enforcement about online solicitation of a minor or traveling to meet a minor charges, don't delay in contacting an attorney. Such charges may be punishable by up to 5 or 15 years in prison, respectively. In addition, each separate computer use for the alleged activity might qualify as a chargeable count against you.

An attorney can review your case to determine if any defenses are available to you. An attorney will also ensure that your procedural rights are protected throughout the entire process. Even seemingly innocent statements can later be used against you. For that reason, it is important that you utilize your right to be represented by an attorney as soon as you are arrested, before engaging in any conversations with police.

Source: Huffington Post, "Facebook's Hunt For Child Predators Meets Uneven Success: Other Social Sites Face Similar Problems," Joseph Menn, July 12, 2012

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