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Facebook page under investigation; youth detective to seek its removal



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February 20, 2013 - A Facebook page containing postings that paint some Oxford High School students in a very unflattering light is being investigated by the Oakland County Sheriff's Dept.

"It's not really a bullying website," explained Sheriff's Det. Joe Ashley, of the Oxford Township substation. "It's more or less a modern version of writing on a bathroom stall."

The page is entitled "Oxford Problems." It features top 10 lists containing the names of OHS students and places them in derogatory or insulting categories.

But just because he doesn't view the page as bullying, doesn't mean Ashley isn't taking it seriously.

"You've got the potential for other crimes to come from this, whether it's crimes against property, crimes against people, he said. "You could have someone assaulted because of it. Who knows? There's a lot of negative things that could come from it that don't need to (happen)."

The detective is planning to talk to the page's creator, an OHS dropout, to warn this individual there's a possibility criminal charges could be forthcoming if the page is not removed.

Ashley admitted that right now, the page doesn't seem to be causing any problems.

"The people that are listed, they think it's more of a joke than anything," said Ashley, whose job is to investigate and handle all youth-related incidents in the township. "I've spoken with one or two people that were listed on there and they didn't care. The people I did talk with, they were like 'it is what it is.' Most of the guys were proud they made the list."

However, Ashley explained the person who created the website could be prosecuted under a state law that prohibits posting messages on the internet that are "intended to cause conduct that would make the victim feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested" or could result in conduct that "would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress."

The person who posts such messages could be charged with this felony and if found guilty, sentenced to up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

"The only way you really can charge on this is if somebody actually claims to be emotionally damaged from it," Ashley said. "At this point, there's nothing to charge."

However, "technically, you can (bring charges) just on the premise that it may cause damages," he noted.

Ashley said he was contacted about the page by Oxford Community Schools because "they had concerns that people were being mentally and emotionally damaged from it."

"But it doesn't look that way at all," he said.

Ashley reiterated he wouldn't classify this as a bullying website, "at least not at this point." He believes the page has the potential to be used for bullying purposes.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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