Facebook Mentions in Police Calls Soar

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More than 7,000 calls to the police this year mentioned Facebook, according to recently-released figures.

Based on data obtained through Freedom of Information requests to police forces, the Daily Mail reported that 7,545 calls from the public since January were linked to Facebook, taking the total number of police calls related to the social network to more than 100,000 over the last five years.

The figures were obtained by asking forces how many times Facebook has been mentioned in calls to the police.

The calls included reports of sudden deaths, firearm offences, fraud, sexual offences and alleged acts of terrorism. Police were also alerted to a "large number" of malicious messages on the site, the newspaper said.

However, Facebook pointed out that the FOI figures showed that it was a "tool for good" in many calls, as from January to 31 October 2010, the social network was mentioned 65 times in cases where a person was 'missing from home'.

In 2005, when the website was starting to take off in the UK, just 1,411 calls were related to Facebook. But the number of calls appears to have increased as the website has grown. More than 500 million people around the world are active users of the site, with over 26 million users in the UK.

A spokesperson for Facebook told Computerworld UK: "These [FOI] statistics do not consider the nature of how Facebook featured - for instance whether the platform aided investigations or if the police received help from Facebook in securing a conviction.

"While there is a correlation between Facebook's growing size and the number of calls, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of Facebook was the cause or carrier of a criminal act in any of the phone calls referenced."

Earlier this year, facing legal action from the social network, the Daily Mail was forced to apologise for an article that wrongly claimed that 14-year-old girls who create a profile on Facebook could be preyed upon by older men "within seconds".

This story, "Facebook Mentions in Police Calls Soar" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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