The Mail has published an online retraction of the article by child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas, which was originally published yesterday under the headline "I posed as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook. What followed will sicken you."
The correction of the article, which claims that after just 90 seconds on the social networking site, his fake profile was approached by a middle-aged man who "wanted to perform a sex act in front of me", was also published on page four of today's print edition.
"In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly stated that the criminologist had conducted an experiment into social networking sites by posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook with the result that he quickly attracted sexually motivated messages. In fact he had used a different social networking site for this exercise. We are happy to set the record straight," the Mail says in its statement.
The piece has been edited to change references to Facebook to "a social networking site" and its headline changed to "I posed as a girl of 14 online. What followed will sicken you". But at time of writing the article's URL, page title and many comments on the piece still refer to Facebook.
The social network is not satisfied with the changes made to date and has asked the Mail to alter the page title, article URL and image in the piece to make it clear Facebook was not involved, Facebook's UK spokeswoman Sophy Silver told Journalism.co.uk.
If these changes are not made, the company will pursue further legal action against the publisher, she confirmed.
"We are in no way pleased with the action they have taken," said Silver, who said Facebook accepts fair criticism of its network by the media.
"We will take the bad ones [articles] that we deserve, but we will not sit here and take articles about us that aren't true. There's enough misunderstanding in the media about Facebook. We have to take all of this."
In a message sent via Twitter, author of the piece Williams-Thomas said he had "made it very clear in final copy to the Mail that the experiment was conducted on a SNS [social networking site]" with "no mention of Facebook".
Silver said the social network had had this confirmed by Williams-Thomas and that the Mail had proceeded with publication despite the author asking for changes to be made. The site sent a legal warning to the Mail before the corrections were made, she confirmed.
Facebook's departments had worked together to collect evidence proving that Facebook could not be the social network described in the piece and presented this to the Mail, she added. Facebook had also tried to post an official comment on the story five times, but these had not been published and the social network is asking for an explanation of this from the Mail, said Silver.
More to follow from Journalism.co.uk. Hat tip to David Steven at Global Dashboard.
Free daily newsletter
- Newsrewired special: Julie Posetti, global research director of ICFJ, on post-pandemic future
- 'Platforms should pay for news' a peer committee says
- Where does journalism belong in an AI-powered news ecosystem?
- Top experts publish 250 recommendations for fighting the 'infodemic' on social platforms
- Where does the buck stop for social platforms when it comes to responsible publishing?