Facebook bites back

From today’s Guardian.

Facebook has threatened to sue the Daily Mail for damages after the paper wrongly claimed in a piece published on Wednesday that 14-year-old girls who create a profile on the social networking site could be approached “within seconds” by older men who “wanted to perform a sex act” in front of them.

The paper apologised in print today and online yesterday for the error, which the author of the piece, Mark Williams-Thomas, insisted had been introduced by editors at the paper despite being told it was wrong. In fact, Williams-Thomas – a retired policeman who now works as a criminologist – had been using another, unspecified social network.

But the giant social networking site, which has 23 million users in the UK alone, said that although the Mail has changed the headline of the article online – so that it now reads “I posed as a girl of 14 online. What followed will sicken you” – it had not at first changed the page title of the article online, used by internet search engines to index content, nor the URL of the piece, which is also a factor in search-engine indexing.