By Patricia Resende / Top Tech News. Updated February 05, 2009.
While popular social-networking Web site MySpace has had to deal with one of its teenage members committing suicide after falling victim to a fake persona, Facebook is dealing with its own scandal involving an impostor.
An 18-year-old student from Milwaukee is accused of allegedly blackmailing his classmates. Anthony Stancl, who created a fake female profile on Facebook, lured 31 male classmates into sending nude photos and videos of themselves in exchange for nude photos of the female he pretended to be.
His classmates at New Berlin Eisenhower High School, ages 13 through 19, were then blackmailed into performing sex acts to prevent Stancl from posting the photos and videos on the Internet. In total, Stancl was able to compile 300 photos of his classmates. More than 850 million photos are uploaded to the site each month, according to Facebook.
Investigators discovered the situation after confiscating Stancl's computer, believing he was behind a bomb threat made to his high school in November.
The student is being charged with five counts of child enticement, two counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault, possession of child pornography, and several other charges, according to TMJ4.com, the Web site of the local NBC news affiliate, which posted the press conference by the Waukesha County district attorney's office. (Calls to the office were not returned in time for publication.)
"Facebook seeks to provide a safe and trusted environment by offering users industry-leading tools that control access to their information, through our proactive monitoring and investigation systems, and our collaborative relationship with law enforcement," said Malorie Lucich, a Facebook spokesperson. "Our hearts go out to the victims and [we] hope people exercise caution when connecting with others unknown to them online or otherwise."
"Most of these things are pretty obvious; you probably wouldn't ever do them," said Suzie White, Facebook's corporate counsel for commercial transactions. "For example, you probably don't 'provide any false personal information in your profile' or 'intimidate or harass other users.'"
Stancl did both -- behaviors listed as "prohibited conduct" for Facebook.
While having to work with authorities on the Stancl case, the popular Web site is also marking five years on the Net.
To celebrate, Facebook gave its members a virtual "Thank You" gift, which was made available in the company's gift shop. Facebook also offered a view down memory lane by posting photos of what the site used to look like.
When launching Facebook five years ago, most people using the site were college students in the United States. Today, however, the site is used by 150 million people of all ages, in more than 35 different languages and in 170 different countries. Nearly half of Facebook's 150 million members use the site every day, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg.
A lot has changed for Facebook, both visually and culturally. Five years ago, users were hesitant about posting their identities online, but that has changed, according to Zuckerberg.
And he's not kidding. Facebook members recently began tagging each other with notes
displaying "25 Random Things About Me." The chain is moving quickly through Facebook, with people listing everything from their shoe size to their first time having alcohol.
"Facebook has offered a safe and trusted environment for people to interact online, which has made millions of people comfortable expressing more about themselves," Zuckerberg wrote in a recent post. "As we celebrate Facebook's 5th birthday, we continue to work hard to evolve Facebook and make it as simple as possible to communicate with and understand the people and entities that matter to you."