A Facebook page called "Horry Hoe List" has been taken down by Facebook, after NewsChannel 15 alerted the social networking site about the page.
A Facebook profile with the user name "Horry Hoe List" was brought to our attention anonymously. The page listed dozens of pictures of various Facebook users, many of whom live in Horry County and attend Horry County public schools. The word 'hoe' or 'ho' is a derogatory slang term sometimes used to describe 'loose' women.
"It's childish. It's pointless," said Dacia McCray, a student at Conway High School who found her image on the Facebook page, a page she says she did not even know existed.
"(My mom) picked me up from school... and said, 'did you know your face is on the Horry Hoes List on Facebook?' And I said, 'No, I had no clue,'" recalled McCray.
McCray is one of a handful of current and former Horry County School students listed, falling into such categories on the page as South Carolina Hoes and 2011 Hoes. Horry County school officials say they have a zero tolerance policy for harassment, Intimidation, or bullying - including cyberbullying.
"There's one other girl that's in my cosmetology class as well that's on there. There's a few people at my base school in North Myrtle Beach up there and a few people at my academy school I go to now that's up there."
The page was littered with explicit language and what many might consider compromising images of young women and men. McCray, like many other people whose images are posted on the page contacted by NewsChannel 15, says she did not authorize the use of her image, identity or any other personal information.
"Once you post a photo on Facebook, it's there for the public. You lose any privacy rights that you have in it," said Jimmy Richardson, Deputy Solicitor with the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office.
He adds, "If you've put (pictures or personal information) there as part of your (profile), certainly it's just a click or a drag and someone can use your photograph on another site. It's easy enough to do. So, there's no theft going on at that point. If they use it inappropriately that may be another criminal or civil matter."
If there's a threat, said Richardson, or if something is said or posted on a website that is deemed lewd and lascivious, it can also be prosecutable. Some parents think they might have a case.
"I was very upset because, I mean, you're defacing people's children and that's wrong. To me, that's like bullying people's kids. That's wrong," said the mother of a child who asked that we not identify her.
The running dialogue between the creator and other users often turns vulgar and at times threatening. However, some whose images are used throughout the page don't seem to mind as much as others, at least based on the tone of their comments. One young woman states: "I just love how yu add me on here! that's lovely! Lol."
While we were investigating the page, the profile picture changed a number of times. The profile picture was usually one of the young women, who had responded directly on the site's wall, demanding their pictures be taken down. The wall is the part of a Facebook page that allows users to post comments and respond to any images or information on a particular page.
Richardson says directly responding on the page may satisfy the initial thirst to clear your name, but could destroy any case you might have through a legal lens.
He said, "From a prosecutors standpoint, when victims continually engage with the suspect, it makes it a lot harder to prosecute because there's no clear cut victim. It's one engaging just as much as the other."
There is still relatively little legal precedent established in the vast online universe. As a result, what is prosecutable and what is not, in many instances, is still being figured out.
Richardson points out, "Right now what we do is use some of the existing laws, such as unlawful use of the telephone," which encompasses digital and electronic correspondents, such as e-mail, text messages, and social media messages. Richardson said online abuse, if serious enough, can also fall under stalking and harrassment crimes. These violations can carry anywhere from three to ten years in prison.
Facebook does have a terms agreement that addresses site abuses, including cyberbullying. According to the site's Terms of Service and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, a profile can be removed by Facebook's User Operations Team if it violates the Terms.
NewsChannel 15 reported the "Horry Hoe List" page to Facebook on Thursday. A public policy spokesman with Facebook responded to NewsChannel 15 Friday.
In an email statement, Fred Wolens said, "I believe we have located the correct account and disabled it per our Statements of Rights and Responsibilities... The profile would be removed under our Terms of Service for operating under a fake name, while a Page would be removed per our harassment policies. People can report abuse using the report links found throughout the site, where the content is originally found."
He continued, "The safety of the people that use Facebook is extremely important to us, and we have strict policies that prohibit the posting of content that bullies or harasses. Facebook is based on a real name culture, where people must associate their actions with their true names and identities in front of their real world friends and family. We're concerned about any abusive behavior, and have made these efforts to promote an environment where everyone on Facebook can connect and share comfortably."
NewsChannel 15 asked Wolens if Facebook could identify the creator of the page, but the company does not comment on specific accounts.
What steps do you take, beyond Facebook's privacy settings, to protect your name and your identity? Do think starting a page like "Horry Hoe List" should be a criminal act? Leave your comments below.
Helpful links and information:
Horry County Schools has a tip line for the anonymous reporting of school crime and school safety information. The number is 1-866-548-3847.