Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has reached more than 800-million active users (that’s almost three times the size of the U.S. population). It has helped people connect with loved ones, promote entrepreneurial ventures, and even put out a call for help when nonprofits are in need or crimes are occurring. But every utopia – even virtual ones – has its reality checks.
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According to research, U.S. Internet users made “Facebook” the most-searched term in 2011, and perhaps this has something to do with the amount of firings and arrests that involved Facebook posts. For example, one Illinois teen was arrested for using Facebook to circulate a list of 50 girls from his high school and rank them by their physical appearance. Ironically, Facebook’s first incarnation was a system for picking which Harvard coed was “hotter.”
Here are 10 other “interesting” Facebook moments from this year:
1. PLOTTING ON TEACHER
In January, half-a-dozen adolescent girls were arrested in Carson City, Nev., after one created a Facebook event called “Attack a Teacher Day,” where participants posted violent threats against specific teachers. The six were suspended and charged with a misdemeanor, communicating threats. Eighteen of the 100 invited had accepted the invitation, but a parent contacted authorities about the posting. [abcnews.go.com]
2. NO COMMENT
In February, Zimbabwe’s first “Facebook arrest” was of a man charged with subverting a constitutional government for posting his thoughts on the Egyptian revolution:
I am overwhelmed,” he wrote. “I don’t want to say Mr. or PM what happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose worth emulating, hey.” [newzimbabwe.com]
3. WHEN STOP SNITCHING GOES WRONG
In February, four Florida teenagers took to the social media site to discuss killing a middle school classmate erroneously suspected of being a “snitch,” which led to the arrest of another classmate who brought a gun to school:
“He ruined my bestfriend’s life! And ima end his!!,” one wrote. “IMA HELP KILL HIM!! THAT PUNK RUINED OUR LIVES!! HES SOO DEAD!!” wrote another.
The victim’s mother discovered the postings and the foursome was charged with a felony, aggravated stalking. [thesmokinggun.com]
4. BUSTED BANK ROBBERY
In March, two young Houston bank tellers, a boyfriend, and an older brother walked into a bank and robbed it. Then they posted these Facebook status updates:
IM RICH B—-,” “WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS,” and “U HAVE TO PAST [sic] THE LINE SOMETIMES!! TO GET DIS MONEY!!”
One even listed under “Employer”:
Make money both ways Dirty and Clean!!
One of the tellers, a single mother, reportedly thought it would be an easy getaway because she was there when the bank had been robbed before and no one had been arrested. She now faces 10 years in prison. [chron.com]
5. NO SMILING OR TEXTING
In April, a Buckingham Palace Guard was fired from his royal wedding duties, after posting a derogatory comment about the princess-to-be on Facebook:
Hur and william drove past me on friday n all a got was a s—ty wave while she looked the opposite way from me, stupid stuck up cow am I not good enough for them! posh b—– am totally with u on this 1 who reely gives a f about hur. [sic]
He later removed the post. The Guardian reported that the event had hundreds of millions of viewers from around the world. [radaronline.com]
6. DEATH IS NO JOKE
In June, a Philadelphia woman and man was taken into custody for allegedly using Facebook to conspire to commit murder. The exchange went like this:
I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father,” she wrote. “say no more [sic],” “what he look like?” “need dat stack 1st,” he responded.
The baby’s father was shot to death while both were still in custody. Still, investigators have not ruled out the Facebook tag team (whose attorneys say were joking) and are also considering the victim’s involvement in a previous shooting incident. [6abc.com]
7. DON’T BE A TEASE
In July, a Utica, N.Y., resident was at large with warrants for his arrest and $32,000 in requested bail for threatening and harassing his ex-girlfriend when he fled to New York City and posted on his Facebook:
Catch me if you can, I’m in Brooklyn.
He was caught. [wktv.com]
8. ONLINE CONFESSIONS
In December, a Pittsburgh teenager Facebooked pictures of the booty he and three other teens collected from a market burglary. The four had stolen more than $8,000 worth of cash, checks, and merchandise and posted the “confession” within an hour of the crime. Though police were already in pursuit based on surveillance camera footage, the following day, a concerned adult from their extended Facebook network called in a tip and the three were arrested, while the fourth was on the lam. [cbsnews.com]
9. CAREFUL WHAT YOU VENT
In December, a Utah man was arrested after posting a threatening response to a video showing police hitting Occupy Wall Street protesters in California:
Before I leave this earth I will take ONE police officer off this planet!!
Police took him into custody from his work cubicle and charged him with Internet stalking. “I learned my lesson. I was really shaken to the core as far as freedom of speech and freedom of what we really can and can’t say,” he told the local news. [abc4.com]
10. PARADE OF OPINIONS
Also in December, a story broke demonstrating that even police are under scrutiny for their online habits. Internal Affairs is investigating a 1,200 member Facebook group called “No More West Indian Day Detail,” after an attorney, whose client was arrested from the famed Brooklyn parade on charges of carrying a gun, discovered that an NYPD sergeant was one of the members. Comments on the group’s now-deleted page included:
I say have the parade one more year, and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out.” [nytimes.com]