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Bogus Facebook Rumour - Thomas Cowling Wants to Talk to Children About Sex

Outline
Message being posted on Facebook warns users to watch out for a man named Thomas Cowling because he is attempting to contact children on Facebook to talk about sex.



Brief Analysis
This rumour is totally unsubstantiated and without foundation. No credible evidence of any kind supports the claims in the message. The warning appears to be an altered version of an earlier , and equally unfounded, message that warned user about a man named Thierry Mairot. Moreover, there are many people that share the name Thomas Cowling who could be unfairly impacted by this rumour. This bogus warning is without merit and should not be reposted.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 9th October 2010
First published: 9th October 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
ATTENTION URGENT ! ! TO ALL PARENTS WHOSE CHILDREN HAVE A PROFILE ON FACEBOOK . THERE IS A MAN TRYING TO GET IN CONTACT WITH CHILDREN TO TALK ABOUT SEX . HIS NAME IS THOMAS COWLING. PLEASE COPY AND PASTE THIS ON TO YOUR WALL AND WARN ALL YOUR FRIENDS ! !

Thomas Cowling Facebook Message




Detailed Analysis
This breathless "warning" message, which is currently circulating around social networking website Facebook at a rate of knots, advises people to watch out for another Facebook user named Thomas Cowling. According to the message, this Thomas Cowling is attempting to contact children via their Facebook profiles in order to talk to them about sex. The message asks users to "urgently" repost the information to warn other users.

However, there is no credible evidence whatsoever to support the unsubstantiated claims in this warning message. In fact, the message is almost certainly nothing more than a mutated version of an earlier - and equally bogus - Facebook "warning" about a person named Thierry Mairot. As the following example of the Thierry Mairot version illustrates, the two are very similar in wording:
ATTENTION…To all parents whose children have a profile on facebook. There is a man trying to get in contact with children to talk about sex. His name is Thierry Mairot. Please copy and paste this onto your wall and warn all ur friends! Please everyone Moms and Dads …repost an…d get him off of Facebook! Parents, Grandparents Aunts, Uncles and Cousins! EVEN if you have NO kids
Thus, it seems likely that some malicious prankster has simply substituted the name "Thomas Cowling" for the original "Thierry Mairot" and reposted the message.

Spreading scurrilous rumours such as this without any evidence whatsoever that the claims in the "warning" are true is simply wrong. Such nasty stories can have a very damaging, long term impact on a person's life. Moreover, even in the unlikely event that one person named "Thomas Cowling" did make inappropriate advances on Facebook, this vague warning could still have a very negative impact on innocent individuals who share that name. Thomas Cowling is in fact a quite common name. There are several people with that name who have profiles on Facebook and searches indicate that there are many people in the world that share that name, including several figures of historical significance.

The warning message makes no effort whatsoever to identify which particular "Thomas Cowling" it might be referring to. 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 paedophilia 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. Thus, it is simply irresponsible to post on baseless accusation such as this.

Of course, it is paramount that we take every step to keep vulnerable children safe online. If we are to let younger children use Facebook at all, then as parents and guardians, we should take concrete steps to actively and continually monitor and control their usage. However, spreading scurrilous nonsense such as this warning will do nothing whatsoever to protect our children.

Please help to stop the spread of this nasty and destructive rumour. Its continued spread could seriously damage an innocent person's life and reputation. If you receive this message - or one like it since other versions are bound to follow - please do not pass it on to others.

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References
Unfounded Facebook Rumour - Thierry Mairot Wants to Talk to Children About Sex



Last updated: 9th October 2010
First published: 9th October 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer