Part of the downfall of MySpace was the proliferation of fake accounts. You couldn’t hardly throw a rock on that social network for a while without hitting a fake account that was set up to look like some hot girl. When Facebook became all the rage, the fake profile seemed to die out, but it didn’t disappear completely as 31 teenage boys in New Berlin, WI learned last year.
On Feb. 5, 2009, Anthony Stancl was arrested and charged with 12 felony counts that included sexual assault and possession of child pornography, and faced up to 293 years in prison. The source of his crime was that he created two accounts on Facebook for non-existent 16-year-old girls, and then he went about contacting 31 boys from the New Berlin Eisenhower High School, where he was a student, over the course of the spring 2007 and fall 2008. He flirted with these boys, some of whom were as young as 13, under the guise of these fake girls, and convinced them to send him compromising nude photos of themselves.
Once Mr. Stancl was in possession of the photos, he would then attempt to blackmail the boys into sexual encounters with him under threat of his releasing them to their peers. Sadly, seven boys succumbed to this plan.
Mr. Stancl was eventually caught after calling in a fake bomb threat to his school so he could have a day off, and after a lengthy dealing with the court, he was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison, and 13 years of extended supervision upon release.
The moral of the story is that unless you know the person in real life, never trust random strangers on a social network. It’s a sad state of affairs to be sure, but Mr. Stancl was apparently very effective at finding random women on Facebook with a large assortment of photographs he could use to further the illusion that he was indeed these girls he was speaking as.
The second part of the moral is to certainly never send any naked photos of yourself to anyone, for any reason! Has no one learned this lesson countless times from celebrities who get caught up in scandals over naked photos or sex videos? Creating this type of content of yourself never ends well it seems, no matter if you are famous, or some unknown high school student, it just never seems to be a very good idea to do this kind of thing.
While none of Mr. Stancl’s victims spoke at his sentencing, some did send letters, and it was learned that others are seeking therapy, and have even been put under suicide watches at some points in the aftermath of this whole debacle.
There is an important lesson here to remember that while social networks are fun, and you may have the best of intentions on them, not everyone shares your motivations, and they can be out to hurt you, no matter how old you are.