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Facebook Upset Over Pedophile Story, Threatens to Sue Daily Mail

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Facebook is none too pleased with the way the Daily Mail titled a recent story about a gang of pedophiles in the U.K., and the social network is willing to go to court to settle it.

On Friday, the paper ran a front-page story about a "complex child abuse investigation," involving a group of pedophiles operating out of Devon and more than 20 children who may have been targeted. At the time, it was unclear whether or not the gang used Facebook to coordinate their actions or to find their victims. However, a detective said that parts of the operation "may have occurred on the Internet," and that authorities were "keeping an open mind with regards to Facebook, Bebo and other sites." Nevertheless, the Daily Mail decided to run the story under a headline that read: "How many more victims of Facebook sex gang?"

Facebook was outraged over being implicitly associated with the incident, and filed a complaint to the paper. The Daily Mail agreed to change the headline, pending further investigation, but Facebook wanted the paper to admit the mistake in a written apology, as well.

"While the inaccurate headline was quickly changed online, the damage of being wrongly tied to this story on the front page is worthy of an apology – to both Daily Mail readers and Facebook – of equal prominence," a spokeswoman for the social network told the Guardian, adding that there was "no evidence" that the site was used to "facilitate these crimes."

The paper, meanwhile, held firm, with a spokesman declaring, "We stand by our story." On Saturday, the Mail ran a second story about 19-year-old Jake Ormerod, who has been arrested in connection with the crime. Both print and online versions of the story featured pictures of Oremerod that, according to the Guardian, were taken directly from his Facebook page.

Police in Devon and Cornwall told the Guardian that they've since discovered that the suspects didn't use the social network to troll for victims -- though Facebook apparently did facilitate communication among witnesses and children who were implicated in the crime. In response, Facebook has consulted its lawyers, and says it has "not ruled out legal action" against the Daily Mail.

Tags: crime, DailyMail, facebook, journalism, lawsuit, lawyers, newspaper, pedophile, SocialNetworking, top, uk, Web