Social media commentators have coined a new phrase to describe Facebook users who collect as many friends as possible: friend collectors. People matching the description are believed to approve any friend request on the social media site -- regardless of whether they really know the person -- in an effort to gather the highest number of friends.
However, prosecutors are becoming suspicious of friend requests sent from strangers. In today's story, a minor girl had approved a Facebook friend request from a man she didn't really know. The man then began sending her messages through the site, ultimately asking to meet with her in a private locate. At that point, the information was turned over to the police, who arrested the man when he arrived.
Authorities are using the arrest as an educational campaign opportunity, warning parents to maintain access to their children's Facebook and other social media accounts. Prosecutors are advising parents to monitor their children's online activity, or at least to utilize parental controls that would restrict privacy settings to "friends only."
In Florida, online solicitation occurs when an adult uses the Internet to contact a child, or someone the adult believes to be a child, in order to seduce, solicit, lure or entice the child to engage in sexual acts. In this case, prosecutors will attempt to prove that the man's Facebook friend request and subsequent meeting invitation satisfy that standard.
Authorities later discovered that the man is on the sex offender registry because of a 2002 Florida conviction of lewd and lascivious conduct against a child. In addition, the man's record includes another Florida conviction on two counts for failure to register as a sex offender.
If the man is able to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney, his advocate will hold prosecutors to their burden of proof and prevent the man's criminal record from unfairly biasing the jury.
Source: Keyser Mineral Daily News Tribune, "Keyser man charged with soliciting minors for sex on Facebook," Liz Beavers, July 22, 2012
· Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Internet sex crimes page.