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Facebook threatens to sue tabloid over pedophile story

Uh oh! Facebook's not happy with the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, and is threatening to sue the publication over an inflammatory headline.

The Guardian reports that the social network is considering legal action over a story headlined "How many more victims of Facebook sex gang?" because — according to Facebook — there "was no evidence to support the allegation that the social networking site was used to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children" in the pedophilia case described in the story:

Facebook complained to the Daily Mail, and the newspaper changed the wording of the headline online pending a further investigation. The website — which is trying to adopt a tough stance against the Mail — also demanded an apology in print. However, the Mail believes it has no reason to apologize and insiders said the newspaper had good reason to believe the mention of Facebook in the headline was appropriate. A spokesman for the Mail said: "We stand by our story."

The headline, the tabloid explained, was based on a statement by one of the detectives working the case described in the story — one involving a pedophile gang operating in Devon, England. The man had apparently said that some of the incidents were related to events which "may have occurred on the Internet" and that officers were "keeping an open mind with regards to Facebook, Bebo and other sites."

There was clarification later that it turned out that "sites such as Facebook were not used as grooming tools [to prepare victims], but for potential witnesses and victims to communicate with each other."

See why Facebook wasn't pleased that it didn't get an apology?

No?

Well, then you should know that Facebook and the Daily Mail have quite a sordid history:

It is not the first time Facebook has locked horns with the Mail. In March the social network extracted an apology from the Mail after the newspaper said that a man posing as a 14-year-old girl who had created a profile on Facebook had been approached "within seconds" by older men who wanted her to perform a "sex act" in front of them. The author of the piece had in fact logged on to another, unnamed, "well-known" social networking site.

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Rosa Golijan writes about tech here and there. She's obsessed with Twitter, but still loves to be liked on Facebook.