Following Facebook’s launch of their new profile page, sorority members from Florida State University, Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University have all confirmed reports of harassment by cyberstalkers posing as potential Facebook friends. According to Florida State assistant police chief, Major Jim Russell, the sorority members on his campus received a friend request from an individual claiming to be affiliated with a particular sorority. Once accepted, the new “friend” requested video interviews with the sorority members asking questions pertaining to the members’ interests – ranging from members seeking initiation to active members looking for leadership roles; however, in an effort to conceal their identity, the friend would claim their camera was broken and insisted on conducting a one-way video chat.
That’s when the Facebook conversation escalated into harassment, Mr. Russell said, with Florida State students reporting that in some instances, the “friend” asked them to reveal undergarments or undress entirely. One student, who tried to cease contact with the friend, was told that there were girls outside her door who could “handle her” if she refused to comply with orders.
Officials at Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University did not release details regarding the nature of the harassment on Facebook. However, all four institutions have informed members of their campuses about the incidents and officials at three of the universities have confirmed ongoing investigations. Mr. Russell suggested that all students adjust their privacy settings and deny friend requests from individuals they don’t know. He also warned that any information released on the Internet can stay there forever. “Students now have to understand that the Internet cloaks the bad guys and that basic prevention concepts are key into preventing future incidents,” he said.