Circulating Facebook message warns that a 48 year old pedophile named Bob Howard is posing as a 14 year old on Facebook in order to make contact with children.
This bogus warning is without merit and should not be reposted. It is one more variant in a series of unsubstantiated and damaging rumours that claim that pedophiles are attempting to contact children via Facebook. While this variant names a person called Bob Howard, other versions have used the names of other men. An earlier, virtually identical, version used the name Harry Graham rather than Bob Howard. There is no credible evidence to back up the claims in these messages. Spreading scurrilous and unfounded rumours such as this can unfairly damage the reputation of innocent people.
Detailed analysis and references below example.
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Last updated: 28th April 2011
First published: 28th April 2011
Article written by Tasawer Abbas
Example PARENT ALERT AND ALL YOU KIDS THAT ARE MY FRIENDS..... There is someone called Bob Howard friend requesting kids on facebook at the moment, posing as a 14yr old, when actually he is a 48 yr. old pedophile. He is known to the police. Please be aware and tell everyone you know. We must keep our kids safe....please, please copy and repost
This "warning", which is circulating very rapidly around Facebook and other social networks, claims that a 48 year old pedophile named Bob Howard is pretending to be a 14 year old with the goal of befriending innocent children. According to the message, the man is "known to police". The message asks recipients to repost the information to other users as a means of helping to keep children safe.
However, this warning is yet another totally unsubstantiated pedophile rumour. There are no credible police or media reports that support the claims in the message. In fact, this message is just a revamped version of an earlier - equally unfounded - "warning" that claimed that the 48 year old pedophile was a man named Harry Graham. Note the virtually identical wording of the two warnings:
There is someone called harry graham friend requesting kids on facebook at the moment, posing as a 14yr old when actually he is a 48yr old peadophile. He is known 2 the police. Please be aware and tell everyone u know. We must keep our kids safe - please copy and paste.Clearly, some malicious prankster has simply substituted the name "Bob Howard" for the name "Harry Graham" before relaunching the "warning" on Facebook. Moreover, several other false pedophile warnings have circulated during the last year. In September 2010, a similar warning began circulating that accused a man named Thierry Mairot of attempting to contact children on Facebook to talk about sex. A later variant of the "warning" changed the name of the accused to Thomas Cowling.
And, "Bob Howard" is actually a very common name. There are a large number of people with that name who have profiles on Facebook. In fact, a great many people in the world share that name. The warning message makes no effort whatsoever to identify which particular "Bob Howard" it is accusing. Thus, many people that share the name may be unfairly tarnished by this baseless rumour, especially if they happen to be Facebook users. Unfortunately, Facebook is becoming a perfect vehicle for destructive scuttlebutt such as this.
The Internet makes it very easy for faceless cowards to make unfounded accusations against others, while remaining anonymous. They may never be required to justify their accusations in any way. If malicious individuals want to discredit, embarrass or annoy someone, or indeed destroy his or her reputation, all they may have to do is create a damaging rumour and post it on Facebook or other social networks.
And even a hint of pedophilia or perversion is often enough to raise great ire and concern among parents and others who care for children. Thus, such accusations, even if totally unfounded, can be a very powerful weapon when wielded by unscrupulous individuals or groups intent on character assassination. Once started, rumours like this can take on a life of their own. Even if the original accuser belatedly learns that his or accusations were wrong, it may well be impossible to stop the further spread of the rumour as it continues its destructive journey.
Of course, it is vitally important to keep our children safe online. However, passing on baseless rumours will do nothing whatsoever to help protect children. Destroying someone's reputation by passing on nonsensical warnings is certainly not going to help keep our kids safe online. A much more productive method is simply to very closely monitor the activities of children when they are online. Better still, don't let young children use adult social networks like Facebook at all.
Given that this article discusses a slightly altered version of other, virtually identical, bogus pedophile warnings discussed on Hoax-Slayer, parts of the article's content have been adapted from earlier articles.