It’s a story that we hear more often than we should. A young teen meets someone online and soon finds out he’s not the man she thought he was. In this case, a 16 year-old girl from Clinton Township in Michigan was raped by a man she met on Facebook, according to a report in the Detroit News. The man, who’s real name is Michael Thomas Robinson, is an 18 year-old member of he Facebook community, creating a profile under the name of Michael Jones.
After befriending him online via Facebook, the girl greed to let Robinson come over her house once, but refused to let him in for a return visit on December 4. Not taking no for an answer, Robinson proceeded to sneak into the house through a basement window, went upstairs and raped the Clinton Township girl, according to the police report. The Detroit News article goes on to report that the rape was interrupted by the girl’s grandmother returning home, causing Robinson to flee the premise. The girl’s grandmother immediately called the police, who were then unable to track Robinson with the K-9 unit. However, Robinson was later arrested at his home on Wednesday.
While this is a bad situation, it’s one that can happen seemingly more frequently since the dawn of online social networking. What may be further disheartening about the Clinton Township girl’s situation is that it occur red on Facebook, a social network that prides itself in extensive privacy options for its users.
What’s unknown about this particular situation is how trusting the Clinton Township girl was as a result of a relationship that began online at Facebook. How many mutual friends did they already have, and how did they come across each other’s profile in the first place? Could Robinson have been a suggested friend due to mutual friends and/or geographical location? And considering that many assault victims are raped by people they already know, is it a moot point to even bring up the idea that online social networks provide a false sense of familiarity and security amongst users who have never met in person?
These may all be things that Facebook could consider when maintaining, creating and raising awareness about its existing privacy settings options and are also things that other existing and future social networks should take into consideration as well.
Image from Detroit News article