back to article Sex offender wins case against Facebook vigilantism

A convicted sex offender has won a court order giving Facebook 72 hours to remove a page on its site which names people who have have been convicted of sex offenses against children. The Northern Irish man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, took the action after his details appeared on the Facebook page "Keeping our kids …


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  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Vigilantism can also result in such people dropping out of sight of everyone, including the authorities who could be expected to keep a watchful eye on them. If they feel that they'll be persecuted no matter what, there's little reason for them not to re-offend.

    Granted, when I see someone as clearly ill-educated as "Robert Corbett" it makes me want to smack his fat head back to school, which biases me somewhat against him and his opinions.

    1. LordBrian

      Yes I agree with what you say but there are counter arguments.

      As recidivism rates are quite high, and we rely on underpaid and poorly motivated public employees to "control" said offenders there is quite a high probability that some will reoffend. Based on the laws in the US "Megan's Law" the ability to track offenders in the community can pay dividends.

      Of course the most obvious route is to house them in very upper-class areas where such ill educated lynch mobs cannot run riot.

      1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

        They'll certainly be in good company there!

      2. Old Handle

        Despite being one of those things "everyone knows" it's not true that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is unusually high. Obviously "high" is subjective, and anything above zero is higher than we wish, but compared to other criminals, sex offenders don't really have particularly high reoffense rate.

        By the way, I'm not sure exactly what "dividends" you see from Megan's Law. Although it's popular with the public, there's not much evidence that it's actually reducing crime.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Recidivism rate

          A study by Dennis Doren has recidivism rates at 52%.

          Another Canadian study, which took into account undetected crimes (dont know how), had the long term rate at 88.3%

          I would consider either of these figures to be high.

        2. Katie Saucey

          Well it is popular with the media, and that's what matters. Not to by any mean try to defend the fucks that perpetrate these crimes; I'm constantly told by every primetime show to not go into the carpark by myself, don't go out for "just for a walk or jog" at sundown etc. Unfortunately we all live with uncertainty of running across a nut. No amount of regs and laws will make the probability zero.

        3. James Micallef Silver badge

          Megan's Law

          Any law that is created to address a specific case (easy to identify becase they are usually called "<victim's name> law") is usually a bad idea. Typically, instead of being based on good research and a solid understanding of the problem to be solved, such laws are knee-jerk reactions to a single case (although, unfortunately, usually an exceptionally nasty case) that neglect other significant aspects of the issues. Politicians will waffle about "If we had <victim's name> law, then this would never have happened to <victim> ", quite ignoring the fact that there could be dozens of alternative and better solutions, or they could simply have correctly enforced existing rules.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well, you either believe that punishment is rehabilitation or just a way to keep them off the streets for a period of time.

        Given how little offenders do in prison and what little changes are attempted to their behaviour it can only be seen currently as a way of keeping them off the streets for a while.

        So we either try to understand these peoples problems and fix them or we just lock them up for good, which is expensive. I heard a figure of £400 a week per prisoner some time ago.

        Trouble is, the problem with trying to alter people's behaviour is this can require them to take drugs permanently, I don't think we're quite ready for behaviour modification using brain surgery again.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        North Oxfordshire

        There is plenty of space in North Oxfordshire and plenty of upper class persons who might themselves feel sympathetic, having had their collars felt by the defenders of public order.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People who

      People who set up pages like this are in the lower IQ bracket.....

      The very back end of the lower IQ bracket.

      Remember the Pediatrician a few years back who was beated up on his door step because a mob though he was a paedophile.....

      1. Chris Thomas Alpha

        Re: People who

        I find it ironic that you mention other peoples IQ level, then go on to spell "beat up" incorrectly. or "beaten up"

        but certainly not "beated up"

        I have no sympathy for pedophiles, I don't go around targetting them, but if one of them had an accident, I wouldn't bat an eyelid...paid for his crime or not, I wouldn't lose much sleep over it.

        however, your point is sound, that people confuse paediatrician with a paedophile are pretty stupid, but to be honest, perhaps we shouldn't have chosen words which sound very similar to describe very different things, I blame latin.....or at least, somebody down that road...

        1. Nigel 13

          Re: People who

          That would be the Greek person down the road then.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: People who

            True but the gp has the makings of a point. "Paedophiles" is the name they used to define themselves because it sounded better (remember PIE, the "paedophile information exchange", which at the time was considered legal?) It's like allowing burglars to be renamed as clutter reduction consultants.

            Drop the word and call them "child abusers" which is what they are.

            1. Shufflemoomin

              Re: People who

              Well, that's clearly not true. A paedophile is someone who has a sexual fetish for children or young adults and a child abuser is one who sexually abuses a child. They're not necessarily the same thing.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: People who

                Er, no. I detect special pleading here. Paedophile does not include young adults - that is an ephebophile. And paedophilia does not come to the attention of the public until it turns into actual child abuse, but the vigilantism and newspaper slavering for circulation only applies to actual child abusers. Benjamin Britten had supportive friends who made sure that his tendencies didn't get him into trouble. He wasn't a child abuser. Charles Dodgson liked small children and there's reason to suspect that he was sexually attracted to young women - but he had extremely, some would say unattainably, high moral standards and never did anything about it.

                Whether the NOTW under Brooks and Co. would have "outed" Britten if he had still been alive is unknowable, of course.

                The newspapers haven't yet demanded that vigilante groups identify and drive out people who play violent computer games, because although they might like the idea of killing lots of people, they don't actually commit murder (usually).

          2. Nigel 13

            Re: People who

            Just realised. By Greek I mean the language, not the nationality.

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: People who

          So you define words as "sounding very similar" because they start with the same sound "peed"? Presumably every word ending in -phile should similarly be removed?

        3. dssf

          Re: People who

          I suspect that that vandalizer conflated or stretched paediatrician and office files to morph into paedophile...

          That kind of person might assert that Olympics swimmers competing in Speedos is a "speed (drug) freak. Or, that someone who "drops acid" would make for a poor or dangerous lab technician (an assertion that could be simultaneously correct and incorrect). :-)

          Ahhh, Earth... An interesting pit stop in the vastness of the Uniwerse...

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: People who

          Using the phone "phile" thing is stupid too. It generally means someone who likes something. Audiophile is obsessed with audio quality, anglophile is someone who likes Britain and British things. Only when you go to paedophile does it suddenly become a word to describe an offender.

          1. Ian Yates

            Re: People who

            "Only when you go to paedophile does it suddenly become a word to describe an offender"

            Not true - "phile" just means loves or likes. The fact that (an adult) loving children (too much) is illegal (in some cultures) is indifferent to the meaning of the word.

            Another example of an "illegal" one would be necrophile.

        5. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          Re: People who

          "but certainly not "beated up"" [...]

          "however, your point is sound, that people confuse paediatrician with a paedophile are pretty stupid" [...]

          Speaking of which, the people chanting about them at the time of that incident had their children with them, and the children were chanting "peefiles out, peefiles out[...]".

          It is the new Salem, the new McCarthyism, especially popular online.

    3. Graham Marsden

      IIRC the UK Police know where something over 97% of all convicted sex offenders live, so if a related crime happens anywhere near them they know there will be a knock on the door.

      In the USA where they have Megan's Law, I believe around 30% of convicted sex offencers have absconded or failed to register a change of address with the appropriate authorities because this law does not even give them the *chance* of trying to rebuild their lives.

      Facebook vigilantism benefits nobody.

    4. Scorchio!!

      It is worth noting that sex offenders are predisposed to repeat offending. I've worked with that category of psychiatric offender and find them repugnant, not least because one of them set me up to be assaulted, which I was; although my assailant was a feeble individual the grey area of self defence 'in good faith' is a difficult one, so I was reduced to pushing him away and into a seat until the crash team arrived.

      There is a proportion that does not re-offend including those who are medicated using, e.g., di/stilbesterol (unwanted effects include growing breasts, making this a difficult matter, since most paedophiles seem to know how to hire a good lawyer). The attitude of law enforcement and psychiatric agencies in this country tends to be that they should be left to handle such offenders as they are best placed to maintain (e.g. not 'lose') contact with and control this very dangerous category of offenders; the implication is that, unmonitored and on the lam, they are more likely to behave impulsively and kill someone; children particularly spring to mind.

      To repeat, I cannot stand sex offenders, they are devious, manipulative and mendacious, and my professional experience of them, that is (to repeat) I was assaulted as a result of manipulative behaviour by one of them, and I wish there were a solution to them that is commonly accepted as moral.

      People frequently suggest they should be orchidectomised ("cut off their nuts"); human sexual behaviour is fixed inside of the womb before birth, and all this does is to make them more resentful and thus dangerous.

      There is no easy solution.

      1. Grease Monkey

        So we'd better stop using PDF files for that reason then?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Facebook say its OK to support vigilantism as long as its against convicted paedophiles, as their terms of use state:

    You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else's rights or otherwise violates the law.

    You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence

    Which they seem to be saying don't apply in this case..

    1. Grease Monkey

      Oh come on. We all know that FB's terms only apply when FB say they apply. Furthermore those terms mean what FB say they mean today and can mean something else tomorrow. And of course if they ever get caught out they'll just modify the terms.

  3. h3

    They are doing it wrong these Pedophile's

    If they did it right then they would be untouchable as we see from the great Sir Jimmy Savile OBE KCSG

    (They made him governor of Broadmoor for a bit).

    I think the Police shouldn't speak to the Media at all. (Like in Portugal where the police basically wouldn't say anything at all whilst an investigation is going on - that is how it should be).

    Pedophiles are the new Blacks / Irish / Jew's (There is always someone society wants to persecute). As far as I am concerned it is like Schizophrenia (i.e really bad but still a serious mental disorder).

    Stuff about pedophilia / terrorism is disproportionate and as far as I am concerned not the concern of the general public. (It should be a concern of the Police but they shouldn't use it as a means to shift attention away from the deep routed corruption in their own ranks).

    Britain is screwed (Unless we get another World War). Stuff like the Sun / News of the World makes it worse.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: They are doing it wrong these Pedophile's

      Pedophilia is the new black?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They are doing it wrong these Pedophile's

        Surely pedophilia is someone who has a kink about bicycle bottom brackets? If Americans must use words derived from Greek, couldn't they at least try to spell them by a closer analogy ( the root is παιδί. Greek used to be translated first into Latin and then into English, and the Latin equivalent of the Greek ai is ae, which is preserved in English, as in Caesar, the pronunciation of what was presumably closer to Kaiser than the usual English "Seeser")

        Color, labor, fine with that. Pedo, a Webster too far.

    2. Martin 71 Silver badge

      Re: They are doing it wrong these Pedophile's

      The only problem with your conflation of Paedophilia with a mental disorder, (which may, in some cases be true) is that it doesn't really help, it'd just increase the stigma on Schizophrenics (which is already enormous). The public are ignorant dimwits by and large... Attempting to pretend otherwise is doomed to failure.

      I agree with you re: disproportionate, but if the police TRY to be proportionate, in the case of terrorism, the government get on their backs, and in the case of paedophiles, the public get on their backs.

      None of which helps anyone, least of all the victims of either group.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "The Northern Irish man, who cannot be named..."

    It's Voldemort!

    1. Martin 71 Silver badge

      I should name him on a facebook page. That would be fine, according to them, right?

  5. banjomike

    Vigilantes are retards

    "Self-styled vigilantes attacked the home of a hospital paediatrician after apparently confusing her professional title with the word "paedophile", it emerged yesterday. "

    Vigilantes on Facebook must be about as low as it is possible to go. Apart from the baddies themselves, of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vigilantes are retards

      These vigilante type aren't usually that bright.

      "I'm going to go murder a paedophile to protect my kids!"

      "If you murder someone you'll be incarcerated and unable to raise your kids."


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vigilantes are retards (@AC)

        You say that like it's a bad thing

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rule of thumb

    If it originated in the United States, and has to do with law and order, then it is probably draconian, regressive, and generally bad policy. (c.f. death penalty)

    I blame their unnatural fascination with the Old Testament.

    1. nitsedy

      Re: Rule of thumb

      The death penalty originated in the United States?

    2. Lance 3

      Re: Rule of thumb

      England is known for the origination of "hanged, drawn and quartered" as a form of capital punishment. Capital punishment is well over 2000 years old so clearly did not originate in the United States. Capital punishment is also used in over 50 countries and outlawed in nearly 100.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "blight other young lives" == "rape children". Just want to make sure we're clear on this point. It's not just an inconvenient experience that "young people" have to get past. It's a life-altering violation by some sick bastard who preys on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society and then gets to walk free while the child continues to suffer for the rest of his/her life. As a matter of fact, let's just realize that some crimes should never be forgiven by society. This is one of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blight?

      Yeah, too bad "sexual offenders" != "people raping children" , even if anyone appearing on a list of such offenders is usually treated the same way. Like the poor bloke who sent an inappropriate message to the wrong address by mistake. (As seen in a recent El Reg article.) As long as someone is on that list, their life is as good as ruined.

      What about the people who murder children? Or those who beat them until they bleed? Where's THEIR registry?

      If we believe such people don't deserve a second chance, then we should either shoot them or keep them behind bars until they die. But we aren't hysterical enough (yet) to say that, so instead, we let them serve their limited sentences, and then make sure they can't do much with their lives afterwards either. How smart. I'm sure the world has become a much safer place because of it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blight?

        "What about the people who murder children? Or those who beat them until they bleed? Where's THEIR registry?"

        Well, you could stick on topic, but if you want to know about how children are protected against physical abuse, then in the UK there are plenty of mechanisms in place to monitor the abusers. An offenders register is of very limited help because it is retrospective, and there's many people who present a risk to children, but will not, and may never be on such a list. My wife works within the systems society has in place, and I can assure you that for example, turning up at A&E with a child with a non-accidental injury does have consequences that do endure, and that people who physically harm children are monitored and controlled to ensure the well being of children within their household and family. And beyond A&E, there's plenty of other ways of ensuring that the police, local government, social services and health services start taking a very serious interest in your parenting.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blight?

        "Or those who beat them until they bleed? Where's THEIR registry?"

        It's called the Eton College Year Book.

    2. Notas Badoff

      Re: Blight?

      Two downvotes in 20 minutes? Have you downers never interacted with someone 'blighted'? Can't say I have recently, as the closest one such killed herself....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blight?

        Some of us downvoters ARE the blighted. Thank you very much.

        I just don't think that violence solves anything, and 'not forgiving at all' (and your attitude to them) is a form of violence.

        Anon because there's still stigma to being a victim as well.

        Yes, this argument is emotionally loaded both ways.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blight?

      > Just want to make sure we're clear on this point.

      Unless, of course, you're the PE teacher that got put on the sex offenders register for accidentally sending sexy texts intended for his significant other to everyone on his contact list, including some of his young pupils.

      Not all sex offenders are rapists and not all of them are actually real offenders.

    4. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Blight?

      Whilst I agree that this is a very emotive issue, the whole point is that these people have gone through a trial and have been sentenced in accordance with the law of the land.

      You may not like that law or the sentence it produced but unsurprisingly, breaking other laws to have a go at the people who were convicted does NOT fix the problem. The only way to change it is to get enough like minded people to lobby to have the law changed (and not Daliy Mail style lobbying either).

      Laws can be changed if a sufficiently large portion of the population push for it but be careful, once you open the box and allow emotion to dictate policy you are leaving yourself open to control by the least stable elements.

      1. Jtom Bronze badge

        Re: Blight?

        But it seems you and a lot of others don't quite understand the difference between what is done under the law by the government and what rights the community have. If it is against the law to post the information (I don't know British law, but in the US, who is convicted of what crimes is public information, and the publishing of any truthful and public information is in no way forbidden) then of course the site must come down.

        But if it is not against the law, society has every right to shun those who are considered anti-social and a potential danger. Shunning, or ostracizing, is age-old. It is (or at least, was) an effective way to ensure members of society lived in ways that most benefited the rest of society.

    5. DF118

      Re: Blight?

      some crimes should never be forgiven by society

      Who said anything about forgiveness?

    6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    7. Greg J Preece

      Re: Blight?

      As a matter of fact, let's just realize that some crimes should never be forgiven by society. This is one of them.

      And that makes vigilante mobs OK? Fuck off. Just, fuck off. Out of the country, off the planet, and preferably into the sun.

      We have a justice system because (we pretend) we're not a bunch of savages. They make un-emotive decisions, appropriate punishments, and abstract the entire thing away from the kind of cretins who would approve of mob justice. Once someone has gone through that justice system, it has not got a fucking thing to do with you.

      Does anyone remember when the focus of our justice system was rehabilitation and reintegration, rather than the whims of shitheads like this?


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