Criminal activity has been linked to social networking site Facebook

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FACEBOOK has been used in almost 100 crimes in just one region of Scotland in the past year

Users of the social media site in the Lothians have been reported to the police for crimes including stalking, racial abuse, fraud and grooming children for sex.

A total of 92 offences linked to the site were investigated between June last year and March 2012.

 

The social media site was created in 2004 and now has over 900 million users

 

More than a third of those, 35, involved sending offensive messages to victims.

Eight cases of stalking have been recorded since last December, after the Scottish Government created the new offence of engaging in threatening, alarming or distressing behaviour.

Police warned those who carried out crimes on Facebook that they would use “all legislation at our disposal” to catch them and “they could not hide behind a cyber identity”.

But campaigners warned the use of Facebook by stalkers was much wider than the police reports suggested.

Ann Mould, founder of Action Scotland Against Stalking, said: “Facebook is another tool for stalkers to use.

“It also gives them a degree of anonymity and they don’t even have to go out to stalk their victim.

“There have been 650 cases in Scotland reported since the stalking lawcame into force.

“We are seeing the numbers involving Facebook rising, but many victims of this may not even realise what is happening to them is stalking.

“Until we have greater awareness of the issue, many cases will go unreported. Victims will also need to have greater confidence in the system so they feel they can come forward and action will be taken.”

Other crimes in the force area on Twitter, blogs and Bebo have also been reported.

On Facebook, one case of the site being used to distribute an indecent photograph of a child  was recorded in Lothian and Borders.

There were seven cases of making criminal threats , and five of racist abuse reported.

The force also recorded four cases of a breach of the peace and three of sending a sexually offensive message, as well as three cases of communicating indecently.

Three bail offences and two cases of fraud were also investigated.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman said: “We are committed to investigating any reports of offences on social network sites thoroughly, and will sue all legislation at our disposal to charge those responsible.

“Offenders believe they can hide behind a cyber identity while threatening or bullying others online, this is not the case, and we would encourage anyone who has suffered from this kind of behaviour to contact police on 0131 311 3131.”

A Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook’s Community Standards, supported by reporting tools on almost every page of the site mean such conduct is swiftly dealt with.

“People on Facebook act as the world’s largest neighbourhood watch and are very active in keeping the site safe.

“When matters of serious criminality are found on Facebook then we work with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

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