Police are trying to nab an Internet predator that has “tortured” a dozen sorority pledges via Facebook.
NBC’s Today show broke the news about this creep who appears to study his targets before approaching them on Facebook.
The first communications seem harmless, yet are obvious attempts to gain trust. Subsequent chats get creepy, with requests for naked pictures, followed by threats to reveal secrets and commit violent acts.
Major Jim Russell of the Florida State University police told NBC:
It could be a man or woman or kid, may not even be in this country. Right now, this person appears to be targeting sorority students and we don’t know who they could be targeting next week.
The dozen or so victims so far all attend southeast schools: University of Florida, Florida State University, Auburn University, University of Alabama and Louisiana State University. These campuses’ sororities and their protocols appear to be well known by the predator.
One of the victims told NBC:
The way they got me in was they thought I was up to a leadership position in the future and I am thinking if I don’t do this, in my senior year, maybe I will really regret passing this opportunity up. …These conversations were about 2 1/2 hours long, sometimes 30 minutes, three times a day. I don’t really regret trusting them very quickly.
Basically they claimed they had talked to girls living in the house as well as alums through rush week and claimed they contacted my mom…. The following day I called my mom and asked her and frantic asking, maybe one of my friends I didn’t know about knew my mom. That’s when I put the pieces in my head and said, “Mom, this is bad news.”
Adding to the bad news, the predator appears to copy photos of these victims and use the images to create fake online personae for targeting other girls.
This predator’s activity includes some flagrantly illegal acts and others that are less clearly so. Laws currently don’t prohibit the use of someone else’s photos for impersonation; instead,the terms of service rules on social network sites address this problem. That enables wrongdoers to at least get kicked off of a site, if not sued.
Update: Police in Florida have apprehended and charged Mitchell Hill, age 26, with two counts of both video voyeurism and extortion, plus 12 counts of attempted video voyeurism, in the sorority stalking case.
Readers what else can Facebook do to make the social network a safer environment for everyone?