Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Facebook mom trolled so badly she sues to stop the madness

Original Article


By Suzanne Choney

A mom who dared to share words of encouragement on Facebook to an unpopular reality-show contestant found herself as the target of a hate campaign that's raged for six months. After trolls allegedly set up a fake Facebook page in her name and used it to solicit girls as young as 9, Nicola Brookes decided to sue Facebook to find the names of the unseen people who persist in harassing her.
- How familiar this sounds.  Many people we've came in contact with over the years, have done this same thing to others, and they continue to this day posting lies about people, just because they speak out and do not agree with their warped reality.

Brookes, who lives in Brighton, England, has been the target of troll hatred on Facebook since last fall, when Frankie Cocozza, an "X-Factor" contestant, was thrown off the British equivalent of "American Idol" for boasting about drug use. Brookes, whose daughter is a fan of the show, was looking at a Facebook page about Cocozza and saw all the snarky remarks posted to him.

"Keep your chin up, Frankie," she said in her Facebook post. "They'll move onto someone else soon." Move on they did, to Brookes herself.

On the fake Facebook page they created in Brookes' name, the trolls apparently solicited young girls for drugs and for sex, then posted comments on the same page calling Brookes a pedophile. The trolls also later posted Brookes’ Brighton home address and a photo of her daughter, says Brookes.
- Hopefully they were or will be arrested and thrown in prison?

Facebook removed the fake page, but Brookes wants the social network to turn over the Internet addresses of the perpetrators, hiding behind various identities. She maintains that she did nothing more to inflame their bile than share her "keep your chin up" remark.

"As soon as she posted that comment about the singer, people started hurling awful, nasty comments toward her," attorney Rupinder Bains told msnbc.com in a phone interview. Her London-based firm, Bains Cohen, took the case on a pro bono basis. Brookes, in her 40s, has Crohn's disease and has not been able to work for a while. The Facebook fiasco has made her scared to leave her home, with threats continuing, Bains said.

When the law firm asked Facebook to remove the fake page last fall, it did so quickly — "they were great," said Bains.

"But the trolling hasn't stopped," she said. "The trolls will constantly be on there, making comments about Nicola ... and then they say things on other blogs elsewhere and on their own Facebook pages. We have to take steps to get the identity of these trolls."

Facebook, contacted for comment by msnbc.com, shared this statement:

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people that use our service. Unlike other websites and forums Facebook has a real-name culture, which provides greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment. We are clear that there is no place for bullying or harassment on Facebook and we respond aggressively to reports of potential abuse.

The site gives users "the tools to report abuse on every page and the option to block people from having any further contact with them. Reports involving harassment are prioritized, reviewed by a trained team of reviewers and removed if they violate our terms."

In a story in the Telegraph, a Facebook spokesman said much of the same, adding that the site responds "aggressively to reports of potential abuse," but declining to comment on the legal action.

Bains believes there may be four or five people behind the harassment/bullying effort on Facebook, but she doesn't know for sure. The law firm plans to request an injunction from the court in Britain to compel Facebook to turn over the computer addresses of those involved in the cruel campaign.

What happens if such an order is granted and the law firms gets ahold of the names? "We would see criminal prosecution once we've identified the trolls," Bains said. Charges could include violations of harassment and communications laws in Britain.

The case, she said, "just goes to show how the veil of anonymity gives an individual so much strength and power," including the power to wound.
- And it's these same idiots who are going to ruin it for everyone else.

Meanwhile, Brookes has been "through times of depression because of this," but she remains on Facebook, Bains said: "She refuses to be beaten by them."

The Kidnapping Hysteria

Original Article


By John Stossel

If you have kids, you are probably worried about them being kidnapped. Your kids are probably worried about it, too. How could they not be after seeing all the publicity about abducted children?

In television public-service announcements the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children warns, "Every day 2,000 children are reported missing." Center president Ernie Allen told me, "Our goal is to reach into every home and to generate that key lead that leads to the recovery of a child. We need to send a message to the American public that this is serious."

That's a noble goal, but there is a downside. Kids tell me that all the talk on television about kidnapping worries them. Dozens of 7-to-12-year-olds I interviewed for "20/20" said abduction was their biggest fear. One little boy said he worries every night "because I'm asleep and I don't know what's gonna happen."

Scaring kids might be justified if abductions were common. But the media make the problem look far bigger than it is. The stereotypical kidnapping, where a child is abducted by a stranger and murdered, ransomed, or kept for a significant period of time, rarely happens. In fact, there are only 100 or so such cases every year.

Those abductions are tragic, but kids are more likely to be caught up in a tornado. Maybe we should have warnings about that, with lots of pictures to put everyone on edge.

The Center for Missing Children is a piece of the Fear Industrial Complex. It raises money by scaring us.

Businesses also profit from our fear. Brinks Security pushes apprehension about child abduction in commercials for home security systems. One terrifying ad is reminiscent of classic horror movies.

And we in the media profit from fear.

"For the media, child kidnapping is a gold mine," says David Glassner, author of the Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. "It can go on for weeks. It's not a one-shot thing. The child is still gone, you can keep following it. Is there a new lead? Then finally, if they're discovered, that's the grand finale."

Nancy Grace has become a CNN superstar by featuring grisly crimes including child kidnappings, complete with an upbeat soundtrack. And NBC's "To Catch a Predator" has become a call to arms for parents by making it seem as if nearly everyone online is out to sexually solicit your kids.

The media have parents scared stiff, says Dan McGinn, who runs focus groups. Some parents won't let their kids out of their sight.

"When they talk about their kids and the risk of kidnapping, the numbers become irrelevant. It doesn't matter if it's 100 kids in the United States or 10,000. They really believe 'it's my child and I could minimize that risk,'" McGinn told us.

During a focus group McGinn assembled for "20/20," parents said things like, "I won't let [my son] go to the restroom by himself" and "I do not let [my kids] go out by themselves in the yard, not even the front yard."

All this worry can't be good for our kids. One child told me, "Anyone could just grab me at any time. A lot more kids are getting kidnapped."

But more kids are not getting kidnapped.

Ernie Allen concedes the point. "The numbers of non-family abductions have been remarkably constant over the years."

But if that's true, isn't his organization needlessly scaring parents and children to death?

"We're trying very hard not to scare people."

But a child is much more likely to be hurt running into the street than kidnapped by a stranger.

"We don't want you to feel like you have to lock your child into a room and never let them out of your sight, " Allen says.

But his message certainly encourages people to do that.

That's a shame. Kids would benefit from being allowed to play in the yard or walk to school by themselves. They should be more vigilant about reckless drivers than potential kidnappers. They would learn to worry about the real risks.

Next week: what we should and shouldn't worry about.

John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News' "20/20" and the author of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know is Wrong." To find out more about John Stossel and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Teen Sex (Full Episode)


Video Link | See Also: Stranger Danger

PA - Can a sex-offender ever have a fresh start?

Original Article


By Ronnie Polaneczky

Twenty-Seven years ago, [name withheld] did a horrible thing. He was strung out on crack, so he’s sketchy on the details. But he admits he had sex with a female acquaintance whose apartment he broke into, with a friend, to steal a TV.

[name withheld] maintains that the sex he had with the acquaintance, who was at home, was consensual. The victim and the court disagreed, and he went to jail in 1985 for rape. He was released from prison in 2001 eager for a fresh start.

But a fresh start, he has learned, is often impossible once potential employers learn that you’ve been imprisoned for a sex crime.

They say, ‘You can’t work here; you’re a rapist,’ ” says [name withheld], 52, who was recently offered good custodial jobs by two employers — including the Philadelphia International Airport — that then canceled the offers once his long-ago conviction came to light. “No one takes the time to know you. They see you on the Internet [sex-offender registry] and they slam the door.”

I won’t lie. When [name withheld] asked me to tell his story, I flinched. What employer in his right mind, I wondered, would knowingly hire a convicted rapist? If something terrible happened, the employer would be held liable for a negligent hiring. And I can’t imagine many employees would happily work alongside [name withheld] once they learned of his past.

Then again, the rape was in 1985, [name withheld] did his time, and he hasn’t had a single infraction since leaving prison 12 years ago. So he has more than paid his debt to society.

He has also married a good woman whose five grown children and grandchildren have provided him a level of stability and support he says he has never known.

What more does he need to convince an employer that he’s worth a chance?

Honestly, there’s no easy answer,” says William Hart, director of the city’s Re-Integration Services for Ex-offenders (RISE). The program helps newly released inmates who are most likely to re-offend (overwhelmingly, young men) find community and social supports to prevent them from re-terrorizing the public.

But RISE doesn’t work with either sex offenders or arsonists because the program hasn’t the professional staff to deal with clinical issues specific to those offenders. Still, Hart believes that [name withheld]’s conviction, as time goes on, will play less and less a role in his employment.

Megan Dade, director of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, is not so sure.

The problem is that many people still believe that ‘once a sex offender, always a sex offender,’ even though new research shows that for many people that is just not the case,” says Dade, whose board evaluates sex offenders for the courts.

Her organization is working to refine the state’s classification of sex offenders to distinguish those likely to re-offend from those who probably won’t. But she knows that, no matter the classification, sex offenders face huge employment hurdles.

It’s not easy for any former inmate to find work, especially in this economy,” she says. “For a sex offender, it’s doubly hard.”

Ironically, [name withheld] hasn’t had much trouble finding employment since 2001. But keeping it has been an issue.

For example, his neighborhood church, whose leaders knew of his past, hired him as a custodian after his release from prison, and he held the job for nearly five years. A new pastor, though, terminated [name withheld] after finding his name on a sex-offender registry.

He then got hired as a custodian at the Marriott, but had to leave once his record became known there. Still, good reviews from his boss landed him work with CleanTech, a company that provides custodial services to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and 30th Street Station.

He was reliable and dependable,” says Marian Stroup, [name withheld]’s former boss at the museum.

When [name withheld]’s record became known to some employees, who balked, CleanTech moved him to a supervisory position at 30th Street, where he was known as a strict and meticulous boss.

After a run-in with a higher-up, he says he was wrongfully terminated from CleanTech, accepted a settlement and has been looking for work ever since. In every case in which he’s gotten close to being hired, he says, his long-ago conviction became a deal-breaker for employers.

People see you on the Internet, they think you’re a child molester,” he says. “I never touched a child. I had one incident, with a woman who was older than me. I wish I could take it back. I can’t. I did my time. How long do I have to pay for a mistake I did so long ago?