Terrorized by Facebook - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Terrorized by Facebook

Just logging onto Facebook, can be enough to scare Carla Barksdale half to death. "That's what I check, every day. Wonder if he put that on there," she said.

It was a little more than a year ago when she got a call from her mom about her Facebook page. "She said, 'I don't know how you can remove it, but you need to get it off.'"

At first glance, it might've appeared to be put up by Carla -- It had her name and was all written in first person, but after a sentence or two, you realize it probably wasn't her doing. "I mean, it's just filth. It's absolute filth."

It wasn't just graphic stuff, but racist, too, playing on the fact that Carla has a bi-racial child.

The Barksdales' believe, with what appears to be good reason, that it was a relative of Carla's that created not just that page, but a couple others like it.

As annoyed as they were, they weren't too worried at first because they figured they'd just let Facebook know it wasn't them, and it would be gone.  If it were only that easy.

"You know, you don't get any feedback from them, so it was almost like a dead end," said Richard Barksdale.

And the pages stayed up for months. The sheriff's department did get the man they accused of doing it to court, and got him convicted of communicating a threat, over the phone. "When it came to the cyber stalking warrants, the judge wouldn't even hear those," said Barksdale.

Elon Law professor, Mike Rich isn't sure why. "Certainly, what you've described to me sounds like cyber-stalking as defined by the statute. It's a pretty broad statute, and, as I read it, it doesn't require threats of harm or anything like that. It's enough to just intend to abuse or annoy."

"We take every crime that's reported to us serious," assured Captain Perry Brookshire, Rockingham County Sheriff's Department.

Brookshire and the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office promised to do what they could, but saw the limits of the law. "With this type of offense, you have to be able to prove who is sitting behind the computer that actually is setting up the account and doing this type of offense," explained Brookshire.

"In some ways, that may be a lack, potentially a lack, of creativity on the part of prosecutors or judges to recognize that not all threats need to be direct threats," said Barksdale. "When you say something terrible about somebody or something that undermines their reputation, that could theoretically be interpreted to be a threat."

With little relief from the law, yet, all the Barksdales' can do is search. "Well, so far so good.  Not another one's been created."

They realize this may not seem like the most serious of crimes, but they want the law to reflect what's happening not only to them but to thousands of others. "Facebook cannot commit murder, but you can almost kill someone's reputation," explained Richard Barksdale.

"It's more than identity theft. It's personal theft," Carla Barksdale added. "It can happen to anyone and it's happening to more than people know."

According to one study, more than a dozen people every day.

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