Dubai police reportedly shut down 15 Facebook and Twitter accounts whose users were reportedly involved in defamation and abuse cases. While a majority of the accounts were disengaged during the first three months of the year, three were blocked within the past week.
Along with the permanent closing of the 15 accounts, police reported that other social media accounts were temporarily suspended for their involvement in the defamation and abuse cases.
Details are cloudy regarding the specifics of the defamation and abuse cases, although 7 Days In Dubai reported Major Saeed Al Hajeri, head of Dubai police's electronic crime division, described one case of blackmail.
“One major case involved hackers who broke into girls’ accounts and emails and downloaded their pictures," Al Hajeri said. “They then used them to blackmail them for money or sexual favours.”
Dubai police requested that the social media sites close the account in letters sent to Facebook and Twitter management, The formal requests included evidence that account holders committed acts in violation of UAE laws, such as personal insults and defamation.
According to The National, Al Hajeri said both Facebook and Twitter agreed to close the accounts after receiving evidence of the users' action.
Facebook and Twitter could not be reached for comment at press time.
Dubai police recently got themselves into hot water after several recent claims from their department that they keep too close of an eye on social networking sites, but police asserted at the time that social media websites are not routinely monitored, reported Middle East-focused business blog Zawya. Authorities say social sites are examined by law enforcement only in the case of a complaint.
"Electronic patrols do not monitor social media websites as they are considered the private matter of the account holder," Maj. Salem Obaid, deputy director of Dubai police's anti-electronic crimes, told The National. "But in case of a defamation or abuse complaint, our patrols enter these accounts to prove the validity of the claim and collect evidence in the case."
Following the shutdown of the 15 accounts, Al Hajeri told Emirates 24/7: "Our electronic police patrols are surfing various websites round the clock to protect the people in the UAE against electronic crimes, which have largely increased worldwide in the recent period."
Despite constant searches, routine monitoring of social networks like Facebook and Twitter infringe on personal freedom and, therefore, are in violation of UAE Law, according to Maj. General Khamis Al Mazeina, the deputy chief of Dubai police.
Instead, monitoring is focused on websites outside the social networking realm. “Electronic patrol teams are tasked with interaction with various websites, such as chat rooms and forums, to make sure people do not use them to lure or blackmail others,” Al Mazeina added.
In December 2010, a former New York EMT, Mark Musarella, pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct and disorderly conduct, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/mark-musarella-emt-admits_n_795227.html" target="_hplink">according to the AP</a>. "Prosecutors say Musarella responded to a March 30, 2009, emergency call in Staten Island, where he snapped a picture of a woman who had been strangled. He then posted the image on [Facebook], <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/mark-musarella-emt-admits_n_795227.html" target="_hplink">the AP also writes</a>.
In July 2011, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/22/joseph-bernard-campbell-stole-nude-photos_n_906975.html" target="_hplink">Joseph Bernard Campbell said he would plead guilty</a> to charges of cyberstalking and unauthorized access to a computer. "At least 19 women were victimized by a computer hacker who broke into their email accounts, captured risqué photographs of the women and then swapped them for the women's Facebook profile pictures, authorities say," <a href="http://www2.tbo.com/news/breaking-news/2011/jul/20/3/computer-hacker-places-risque-photos-of-women-on-t-ar-245211/" target="_hplink">reports Tampa Bay Online</a>.
In Carson City, Nevada a group of six girls (ages 12 to 13) were arrested in January 2011 for allegedly posting threatening comments on the wall of a Facebook event titled "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/07/attack-a-teacher-day-face_n_806126.html" target="_hplink">Attack A Teacher Day</a>." <a href="http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20110106/NEWS/110109788/1070&ParentProfile=1058" target="_hplink">According to the Nevada Appeal</a>, posts apparently written by the girls contained the word "attack." "All of the girls said it was just a joke," Carson City Sheriff's Deputy Jessica Rivera <a href="http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20110106/NEWS/110109788/1070&ParentProfile=1058" target="_hplink">told the Appeal</a>.
In April 2011, two preteen girls from a Seattle suburb were charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/facebook-cyberstalking-preteen-girls-charged_n_854605.html" target="_hplink">Reuters reports</a> that the girls "allegedly post[ed] sexually explicit photos and comments on the Facebook page of a 12-year-old classmate" and were "accused of using the third girl's computer address to send out instant message solicitations for sex using her name."
London Eley of Philadelphia allegedly used Facebook to find and hire someone to kill Corey White, the father of her child. "I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father," Eley wrote, <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/crime&id=8188762" target="_hplink">according 6ABC.com</a>. A man named Timothy Bynum allegedly accepted Eley's offer, writing, "say no more," "what he look like?" and "need dat stack 1st," <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/crime&id=8188762" target="_hplink">reports 6ABC.com</a>. White alerted the authorities to the alleged correspondence between Eley and Bynum, both of whom were taken into custody in June 2011. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/17/corey-white_n_929332.html#s332101&title=Corey_White" target="_hplink">White was shot in August</a> while Eley and Bynum remained in jail.
After days of riots and looting rocked U.K. cities earlier in August, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14488055" target="_hplink">the BBC reported</a> that authorities had arrested several people for allegedly inciting violence via Facebook posts. <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/uk-police-arrests-10-more-over-facebook-posts-inciting-riots/2505?tag=content;siu-container" target="_hplink">According to ZDNET</a>, Scotland Yard had said it would seek out individuals believed to have written "really inflammatory, inaccurate" Facebook messages. By the end of August, nearly 2,000 had been arrested in connection with the riots, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/21/uk-riots-nearly-2000-arrested" target="_hplink">reports the Guardian</a>.
In April 2011, Houston police apprehended four suspects in a bank robbery case. Police said that suspicious Facebook posts led them to connect the group, including two bank tellers, to the heist. The following are among the alleged Facebook posts, <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/4-arrested-in-Houston-bank-heist-after-boasts-on-1691864.php" target="_hplink">according to the Houston Chronicle</a>: ""Get $$$" and "'WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS [sic]."
An Illinois teenager was arrested in May 2011 for allegedly distributing (via Facebook) a provocative list that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink">ranked the physical appearance of 50 girls from his high school</a>. According to the <em><a href="http://www.suntimes.com/5294285-417/oak-park-police-charge-boy-who-allegedly-made-sex-ranking-list.html" target="_hplink">Chicago Sun Times</a></em>, the list in question "described the girls by explicit, derogatory nicknames and assessed their physical appearance, sexual desirability, sexual activity and other characteristics". <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink">The Associated Press lists nicknames</a> like "Fallen Angel," "Blond Bombshell" and "The Hangover." "He obviously offended people but he also has a right to free speech," criminal defense attorney Mark Gottesman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink"> told The Huffington Post</a>.
In September 2010, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-status-read-engaged-cops-call-statutory-rape/story?id=11626836" target="_hplink">Robert Nickson Jr, a 27 year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested</a> for an alleged relationship with a 14-year-old girl. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-status-read-engaged-cops-call-statutory-rape/story?id=11626836" target="_hplink">Writes ABC News</a>: <blockquote>A Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division's special task force, nicknamed Operation Triad, which investigates child pornography and predators, was tipped off by the county's child welfare agency after Nickson posted photos of himself and the girl online. </blockquote>
Former U.S. Congress candidate Cheryl Allen was arrested and charged in January 2011 for reportedly threatening several civil servants. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/15/cheryl-allen-charged-with_n_809596.html" target="_hplink">According to the Associated Press,</a> "The alleged threats mentioned four Morgan County judges, and other public officials [...] were mentioned by first name. Media reports said Allen had previously filed a discrimination lawsuit that was dismissed by a judge."
In late January 2011, a group of four Florida teens, ages 13 through 14, were arrested at their school for allegedly directing threats towards another classmate via Facebook. "Mistakenly believing that a middle school classmate had caused the arrest of a friend, a quartet of Florida teenagers exchanged Facebook messages discussing the killing of the suspected 'snitch,'" <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/internet/teens-arrested-facebook-death-threats" target="_hplink">reports The Smoking Gun</a>. The Smoking Gun also published some of the purported threats, detailed <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/facebook-death-threat?page=0" target="_hplink">in the police report</a>: - "He ruined my bestfriend's life! And ima end his!!" - "Oh that little bitch is dead. Just u have to show me who he is first then he is dead." - "IMA HELP KILL HIM!! THAT PUNK RUINED OUR LIVES!! HES SOO DEAD!!"
In May 2011 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/05/woman-allegedly-bragged-o_n_858226.html" target="_hplink">Chicago resident Ruth Ramirez</a>, 26, turned herself in to police over an alleged bar brawl in April, during which Ramirez was said to have broken a glass in another woman's face. According to a statement by police, <a href="http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/news/local/chibrknews-prosecutors-bragging-on-facebook-leads-to-charges-20110504,0,2182393.story" target="_hplink">reported by Chicago Breaking News</a>, a friend of the victim was on Facebook the day after the fight and noticed a post describing the incident in detail. "She showed the post to the victim, who identified her attacker by the photograph posted on the profile. [...] The victim called police and gave them the information, and an investigative alert was issued," <a href="http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/news/local/chibrknews-prosecutors-bragging-on-facebook-leads-to-charges-20110504,0,2182393.story" target="_hplink">wrote CBN</a>.
In February 2011, Eric James Wilson, 21, was arrested in Palm Bay, Florida for <a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/26860530/detail.html" target="_hplink">allegedly assaulting his then-wife</a>. <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/man-arrested-over-facebook-relationship-status/220" target="_hplink">According to ZDNET</a>, police charged Wilson with "battery domestic violence and a misdemeanor." The fight reportedly started after Wilson changed his Facebook relationship status from "married" to "single."