back to article Facebook 'friend request' lands UK man in jail

A man who joined Facebook to look at his friend's wedding pics, was sent to jail after the site automatically sent a "friend request" message to his estranged wife. Dillon Osborn, of Newport Pagnell Bucks, had been told by magistrates to stay away from his wife, Claire Tarbox, after bombarding her with phone calls and text …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And his reason for not appealing is?

    Sounds like a case of the "Oh, I didn't realise stabbing him would cause injury, m'lud" bollocks. He knew precisely what he was doing.

  2. Heff

    reason for not appealing =

    Money. he served 7 days. He's out. if its not further affected his life, why appeal? it'd take money he probably doesnt have to argue in court that hes not good with the internet.

    what bothers me is that his wife is so highly strung that she had him picked up for a facebook note. I wonder how psychotic he was to get the restraining order in the first place?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    LinkedIn is not decent

    It works by intimidation. After all, when your boss sends you a LinkedIn request, are you going to say no ?

    And when all your colleagues have also signed up (because of your boss), and send you their own requests, are you going to turn them away ? Too late for that, you already accepted your bosses invitation.

    And if an ex-colleague from a previous job sends you an invite, a guy that you got along with just fine, are you going to blow him away ? Of course not, you have no reason to brush him off, it might hurt his feelings and he doesn't deserve it.

    LinkedIn is just one great big threat zone. These are people you know, you work with or have worked with. You DO NOT want to get them irked at you, because you know you just might NEED them at some point in the future.

    LinkedIn is the Mafia cousin of social sites. You sign in, because if you don't, you'll be sorry.

  5. eddiewrenn

    poor man

    Very easy to happen, poor bloke!

  6. Steve

    He's a liar

    If he didn't know she had a facebook account, how did he look her up, select 'add as a friend' and then confirm the dialogue.

    Facebook doesn't send automatic friend requests to anyone, it's not psychic as to who you might or might not know amongst the 47 million users.

  7. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Entirely possible

    Facebook can be pretty fiddly at times, I've accidentally done a few things on there as sometimes the links don't make clear what their action will be.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is highly confussing, the privacy settings espically, I think it is designed this way so as you give up and just make everything public.

  9. Darryl Ashton

    Re: Um, you don't know how facebook works, do you?

    Never happened to me.

  10. BS

    It wasn't his fault....

    Personally I believe there *could* be a perfectly valid reason why the gentlemen *accidentally* contacted his wife. Facebook allows you to give it access to your MSN profile in order to (spam/)email all of your `friends.' If the man's wife was listed in his MSN profile, then Facebook would have emailed her.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the point

    Of course the judge is wrong.

    I think the point of this post is rather that sites like facebook "trick" information out of you to gain more contents. Especially facebook is extremely indiscreet: Yes, ppl may know, that i know that particular other user from somewhere. From SOMEWHERE! They do not need to know where we met, who else was around, what colour was my underwear that day, and and and.....

  12. Rob


    "I wonder how psychotic he was to get the restraining order in the first place?"

    You never know, she could be the psychotic one, some strands of the female species are quite delusional at times.

  13. Alex

    I don't follow...

    Why would facebook send a friend request for anything to do with looking at a friend's photos? And why would that be linked to a confusing sign-in process?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the Other End

    I've been on the other end of this one. I was sent a message from someone on my MSN list, via Facebook. And I'm not even a member.....

    Spoke to the offending sender who didn't mean to do it and wasn't aware it had happened until lots of people asked him why he'd invited them.

    I would agree that the judge more than likely did not have enough of an understanding to make an informed decision.

  15. Scott Mckenzie

    It can be confusing.. it send requests to all people in your address book, MSN etc etc So if for some highly likely reason his estranged wifes email address was in any of those then it would do it automatically....

    Does still sound a little fishy mind.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not true

    Facebook DOES, when you first sign up, ask to connect to your msn/yahoo/aim to send invites to ALL your contacts there.... Easy enough to send an invite to someone you didn't want to invite.... Fair play then you say? Nope! Because that means he would had to have had his Ex-missus' email address SOMEWHERE in his contacts!

  17. Mark Allen

    Automatic Adding

    I don't use these networking sites, but can confirm that many of them have a "spam my friends" option on sign-up.

    I regularly get "invites" to join these annoying sites from brainless clients of mine. They clearly have my email address in their contacts lists, and these sites all seem to have an automatic option to spam everyone in your contacts list.

    These sites are there purely to get feet past the door.... so the more names they can collect the better... and they don't care where they get them from.

    Some of the sites have real scary T's & C's. Some of these sites have now been setup purely to collect email addresses to sell on. Funny thing is these sites explain this in the T's & C's cos they know that it is only weird people like me who read them. LoL!

  18. Malcolm

    Dubious Facebook 'Feature'

    From the description, it sounds like he was victim to one of Facebook's more dubious (and opaque) features. When you sign up for an account the first thing it prompts you to do is to type in the account details and password for your web email account (I believe it supports all the major players, ie. Gmail, Yahoo, hotmail etc).

    If you do this then it automatically goes through your email contact list and sends friend requests or facebook email invitations to your _entire_ contact list - probably everyone you've ever emailed or received email from.

    While it may seem obvious to the more techno-savvy of you that Facebook shouldn't need your email account password, not everyone is so alert. Indeed, I know of several very technologically minded people who have been caught out by this 'feature' and have had it contact business associates and other people who they really didn't want adding as their facebook 'friends'.

  19. Jon Pain

    Easily Possible

    Facebook has a function to scan your email address book and send invites to EVERYONE in there. If he's like me, and never cleans up this address book, then his ex-wife's email address is still going to be in there, and facebook is going to send a request.

    This is an easy accident to make, and there was no reason for the sentence!

  20. Alistair

    Steve you're wrong!

    I can see you've never used facebook... when you sign up to facebook if you give it your email password it will automatically cross reference your entire hotmail/gmail/yahoo etc contacts with facebook and automatically send out on mass invites - i expect this is how he got busted - really unfair i think.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: He's a liar

    Nope, wrong. When you sign up, Facebook will offer to find people in your email address book, gmail, MSN/yahoo messenger and automatically request them as your friend (or send an invite if they're not already members). It's entirely possible that he let Facebook do this, forgetting he still had her email address in his contacts list.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To those that think he lied...

    When you sign up to facebook, it invites you to give it your email address, e.g. a Hotmail one, and your password for that account. It'll then trawl through your Hotmail contacts list and send an automatic invite to join Facebook to all entries. It can do this for Hotmail, AOL, GMail, Yahoo and MSN. So I presume that when he and his wife were on better terms, he would have added her email address to his contacts list. The confusing way that Facebook makes you sign up, I can quite easily see someone simply entering there Hotmail address and password without thinking about what it is doing, it simply says it's looking for friends. Click find your friends and Wham! Emails to everyone in the list, friend or not, estranged wife or not. I think the judgement was wrong, I think any reasonable person with a little knowledge or willingness to find out, would have quickly discovered that this was pretty much an email from an automated service, and that unless the message included a message specifically aimed at the estranged wife, then this shouldn't have resulted in any penalties, other than to be told to be a little more careful.

  23. David Cantrell

    Oh no! He had his ex-wife's name in his address book!

    Anonymous Vulture, what on earth is wrong with having his ex's email address in his address book? I've got plenty of ex-girlfriends' addresses in mine, simply because I've not bothered to delete them.

  24. Giles

    Ever used facebook Steve?

    Unfortunately, its not a case of, having to - "look her up, select 'add as a friend' and then confirm the dialogue." When you sign up for facebook using an account such as gmail or msn, it goes through your entire contacts list and tries to invite all of them to specify you as a friend or to join facebook. In my case, my gmail contacts list contains anyone i've mailed from that account, ie pimps and the like. It's not just when you sign up either - It tries to do the same at other points when you're using it.

    It does make you wonder what he'd done in the past to deserve such a harsh response mind...

  25. Steve

    @Steve - the imposter

    Not only are you wrong, see above, but you're wrong with my name on it !

    Can I appeal to El Reg mods for a name change ? Henceforth I should like to be known as "The Other Steve"

    I am not the same Steve that posted the above comment. This is just to confusing !

  26. Ash

    It may not be his fault...

    Remember that 90% of the people who come to read this site know what the implications of allowing a website access to your Hotmail (Passport, don't forget) account are.

    If this gent thought "Oh, that'll email Bob from Accounting, and that chap I play 2L with!" then he may well be no more guilty than a home PC user with an open wireless network getting shafted for his neighbour's file sharing. It's education and understanding that could be at fault here.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @linkedIn is not decent

    I think you have missed the point of linkedin, its not for yoofs to share their miserable lives it is for business contacts. Business contacts are for work, and as long as you get on with people you work with why not link to them. Its the equivalent of giving out business cards. You dont have to socialise with these people.

    I think you really should avoid such a place if it is too grown up for you.

  28. Steve

    Alistair - No I'm not

    I do use facebook and whilst what you said is correct about the spamming mail, you need to RTFA as that's nothing to do with this story.

    The guy added her as a friend, it does NOT automate that activity at any stage, you have to search for and select to add friends.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: reason for not appealing = money

    Whilst I sort of agree with the sentiment, I am not sure if he can get compensation (from the court) because his defence wasn't upto scratch. If the judge/jury aren't experts in Facebook then it is his job to call an expert witness.

    Facebook's dubious smash and grab techniques may be common knowledge to El Reg readers (well, 50% of them if the above comments are anything to go by), it doesn't mean it is common knowledge to the general public (quite the opposite, if anything).

  30. Ruana


    "You never know, she could be the psychotic one, some strands of the female species are quite delusional at times."

    Some strands of the *human* species are quite delusional at times. Try not to sound quite such a Neanderthal.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About LinkedIn...

    I've not given in to LinkedIn, no matter which people send me LinkedIn requests. I don't care. I have enough social networking sites to deal with, and I'll probably have to employ someone to run my sites for me. NOT.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When you sign up, you get asked if you want to email everyone in your address list, as you have to enter your email address, and password, and then confirm who you want to email, its hardly an automatic process, and really isn't that confusing. Anyone that thinks it is probably shouldn't be using these type of sites....

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah but..

    If you're saying Facebook just emailed everyone in his contact list, then it wasn't important or relevant for him to say "I didn’t even know she had a Facebook account". From that it sounds like the contact was via Facebook itself, not an email sent by Facebook. Sounds to me though, like there was enough information given away in the article for the woman's Facebook identity to be figured out and I wouldn't be surprised if she gets deluged with contact requests now. All because she stomped her feet over nothing.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Daft bint.

    She got arsey after that ? One friend request ? Jesus. He bombarded her with calls and texts before hand ? Probably trying to mend a marriage that this psychohosebeast ended.

    Sounds like he's better off without her, nutty mare. Just as easy to click on "ignore". Block his number, junk his email addy etc. It's not hard. C'mon, she's probably relishing the attention.

  35. Jack

    Re: I don't follow

    Alex wrote:

    Why would facebook send a friend request for anything to do with looking at a friend's photos? And why would that be linked to a confusing sign-in process?

    Probably because he didn't have an account to begin with. As with most social networking sites, to view more than the front page of a profile you need to register and log in. This guy no doubt was just registering to view a friends pics, and of course got caught up in the "enter your email address and password" auto-spam, sorry, "auto-find" option. (That was one reason why I didn't sign up to facebook for a long time, and in the end set up a false email account with random password - like f**k am I going to give them free access to my email!)

  36. Lickass McClippers

    I concur...

    ...with most on here. Being a Faceplant user myself, if you're not particular about which buttons you press and which check boxes you tick, you can indeed fire off invites to all and sundry.

    That to one side, we're missing some salient details about why this guy has a restraining order against him, and why his (ex)wife found it necessary to have him charged...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Not true

    "Fair play then you say? Nope! Because that means he would had to have had his Ex-missus' email address SOMEWHERE in his contacts!"

    Of course it was there, from happier times probably. I expect he just forgot to remove it... I just checked my Yahoo! contacts list - there are people there I haven't talked to for years. Some who I don't even remember who they are now!

  38. Smallbrainfield

    It serves him right for signing up to Facebook,

    the big silly man-sheep.

  39. Ian

    Judge was right

    The judge was correct. Remember he had already been instructed to stay away from his 'estranged' wife by the court. It was entirely his responsibility to ensure that he did not contact this person until the court decided otherwise. Unfortunate for him, since he obviously didn't intend to.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anyone stupid enough to put their email password into a third party site deserves all they get.

    I use facebook, but all the information I give is either trivial or a lie. Such as my year of birth (1911).

  41. Mark


    '"You never know, she could be the psychotic one, some strands of the female species are quite delusional at times."

    Some strands of the *human* species are quite delusional at times. Try not to sound quite such a Neanderthal'

    Yup, as I've always said, there are fewer differences between men and women than men think. There are also fewer difference between men and women than women hope.

    As to your addition to the noise level, since the respondent was to a query as to how psychotic the MAN was, surely, putting "human" in the codilla would have blamed men and women equally in itself and, in the context of the entire conversation be deriding men as psychotic TWICE? Therefore, it can be seen that their response was even handed. Of course, if you have a vested interest in women not being painted as bad (even where the conversation has already discussed men as being bad), you won't have noticed that, which is why this long and rambling discourse was taken.

  42. DW

    A couple of points.

    I can quite easily see how someone could make a mistake and accidentally send an e-mail to people they don't mean to through Facebook. However, there are a few things which have been said here that are incorrect.

    Firstly, it is not necessary to sign up to Facebook to view photos or albums on it. They can be linked to directly, although the function is hidden in very small print at the bottom of the page, so can easily be missed.

    In any case, when you sign up you can indeed allow Facebook access to various of your address books, and it will then (this is an important point) ask for your permission to send e-mails to your contacts inviting them to join Facebook. Furthermore, once permission is given, any contacts already signed up to Facebook using an e-mail in your address book will automatically be sent a friend request.

    The point here is that although the defendant ought to have been more careful in looking through the list of people Facebook was going to e-mail, it is unlikely that he realised a friend request was going to be sent.

    While the judge may not have understood these subtleties, I think that he was ultimately correct in his decision - whether through a lack of care or through malice, the defendant broke the terms of his bail in a way that could quite easily have been prevented had he just looked through the page of people Facebook was going to contact and unchecked the box for his ex-wife. Whatever else in the process may be confusing, that particular step is made very obvious and easy to understand.

  43. ryan


    i'm sure the women's lib movement is grateful for your support.

    a bit of support being something i'd imagine they could do with, what with burning all those bras and everything.

  44. Steve
    Thumb Down

    @ El reg mods

    Seriously, I'm not kidding, name change please ! There are apparently (at least) two people with the name 'Steve', either that, or I am undergoing some kind of weird psychosis, which is always a possibility. One of us is an arrogant, religiously intolerant, opinionated, wine swilling codemonkey fuckwit, the other one is him.

    BTW, what's with these icons ?????

    The Other Steve

  45. Andy
    Paris Hilton

    re: Anonymous Vulture


    There's good reason why my professional profile is on LinkedIn, a deacent social network.


    shame you can't learn to spell though

  46. Cap'n wotsit
    Dead Vulture

    Bored now

    this thread appears to be a "anonymous Vulture posing thread"

    stop being an attention whore.

    who cares about if some numpty asked his ex wife for a friend request on facebook and she was too neurotic just to delete it, and cost the tax payer 7 days jail time for her ex husband. seriously?


  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's Facebook?

    Me, I meet and talk to my real friends.

    Still if you want to cop of with the 18(44) year old, Blond (grey), Girl (man) from Sweeden (Swindon) then feel free.....


    Where's the Hypephone / Britney angle?

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So facebook asks you for my email address and password...

    ...does it? I didn't know that, having not got a facebook account.

    But anyone who just types in their email password to a program which asks for it - ANY program - deserves everything they get.

    But you know - it's not up to the judge to understand the technology. It's up to the various lawyers to make that clear and for the judge to then make a judgment. We only have this guys word for it that he "did it by accident" - a guy who has already been done for harassing his wife with texts and emails. "Accident? Yeah right" springs to my mind, I'm afraid.

  49. Alex


    That would explain it! I'm pretty sure that auto-spam wasn't a "feature" when I signed up to facebook. That sets my mind at rest; thought I might have been quietly infuriating some people who'd rather not hear from me again. :-p

  50. John Watts

    Blah blah blah

    To DW - you don't need to sign-up to Facebook to see photos now, but you did once (I'm sure El Reg wrote something on it). It takes time for things to get to court ...

    I have signed up to it recently and can confirm (these days at least) there is a bit where you're asked for your email address and email password.

    You also have to use an email address to sign-up. Lots of people only have one password if they can get away with it.

    So, when I was signing up and email address I used to sign-up with appears with a box below I typed in the password I used when I registered.

    It didn't work a few times so I actually read what was on the screen and then I was glad that I use different passwords.

    As for the chap having his ex's email address in his contacts; perhaps it was an address that they both used when they lived together which he didn't think to delete when he deleted all of the others.

    Perhaps he lives with some vain hope that she will one day email him to get back together and has kept the contact so hotmail doesn't automatically send it to the junkmail.

    Perhaps, and it's not impossible, he didn't even know there are contacts with hotmail!

  51. John A Blackley

    Oh yes he did

    Did any of the "Facebook does this", "No, Facebook does that" posters above read the part about "after bombarding her with phone calls and text messages"?

    The guy was under an injunction to stop contacting his wife. It is not the role of the judge or anyone else to hold his hand as he walks through life and help ensure that he understands every feature of every (in the case of Facebook, in my opinion) pointless, time-wasting piece of software trash he's ever likely to use.

    That's his job. He is under a court order to not contact his wife. He broke that court order because he used something he didn't learn enough about before using it. He spent a few days in jail. Hardly the most egregious miscarriage of justice I've ever heard of.

  52. Joe

    Not only, but also...

    Facebook doesn't just suggest that you might like to let it scan your MSN contacts.

    When you first sign up it pretty much insists that you do this and that there's no other way to add friends!

    But, of course, that's intentional on Facebook's part.

  53. Adam T

    @ Ah but

    Facebook tricks non-savvy people into uploading their contacts, and mails them invites indisciminately.

    Facebook emails you as if you have an account already, too. So it's easy to be confused at both ends.

    Since the email is unsolicited (it isn't explained clear enough at sign-up to say that you specifically agree to send email yourself), I'd call it spam, and Facebook should be fined for every fucking email I get from them (not from people who have my addy in their contacts).

    I hate social networking sites. Money tree shite. "But it helped me meet people I'd forgotten about". Ever wonder why you forgot about them? Duh.

  54. Perry
    Gates Horns

    @Anonymous Vulture

    Who is this Anonymous Vulture bloke and why is he always contradicting himself...

    I hope you don't have my facebook account....

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The Other Steve

    You can change your name yourself. Just go to and log in.

  56. Bob Appleyard

    Happened to me

    I accidentally invited an ex when I signed up for Facebook. Luckily, no restraining orders with that one!!

  57. JC

    Ex-Wife Obviously The Problem

    The ex-wife receives a spamlike invite, and instead of just deleting it like everyone else, she's actively LOOKING to do harm to him when he's otherwise stayed away.

    Would a "friend invite" ever be considered a form of harassment when otherwise nothing has recently transpired? Seems like if anything it would be like extending an olive branch. Even so, if he had done in intentionally it's in violation of the order so I couldn't condone an intentional action, but regardless of intent or lack thereof, his ex was very petty in reporting this spam invite and by this action it would seem she doesn't have enough sense to just stop fanning the fire. It takes two people to have a conflict.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    From discussions with a number of divorcees apparently the first thing you do in an acrimonious divorce is apply for a restraining order, it gets the house, kids & money because of your 'immense suffering'. Remind me again what percentage of men get custody?

    Possibly this is a little cynical but 7 days seems harsh for what could possibly be a mistake. I could understand it if the email was directly adressed to the ex wife containing questionable material, this was no worse than receiving some mail addressed to Mr & Mrs Jones after a divorce, either there is more to this story or its a dodgy judgement.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is an automated message a 'contact'

    There's a good argument for saying that a 'friends request' isn't a contact, its a request for you to make a contact. If you don't want to make contact, then you just delete it.

    Facebook likes to vacuum up your email address book. This may be where the problem came from.

    The wife sounds like a serious psycho.

  60. The Other Steve
    Thumb Up

    RE @The Other Steve

    Duh! So you can, thanks.

    I seemed to remember that when I signed up some time ago *to get the reg newsletter) the text said that that wouldn't be possible, and I've never updated my prefs since.

    Of course, my memory could be impaired from all the wine swilling :-)

  61. Tony

    No wonder the prisons are full

    No wonder the prisons are full

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why oh why.... so many people want to mess around with these sad little soc. net. sites anyway?! They are asking for trouble..... Who cares who knows who and what they had for lunch yesterday, or who said what about who?! Honestly - if you dont stay in touch with people in real life it is normally because one of you isn't so keen on the other anyway.

    People who crave attention and post themselves up on these types of site deserve whatever they get. What kind of hard of thinking character would splurge their personal information, their profile, up on the internet for anyone to see? How short sighted are these people?

    Facebook is fantastic for siphoning identities and enumerating targets for social engineering scams, and for lazy law enforcement `intelligence` gathering.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo


    Anon here playing with the new picture things

    Anyway I know lots of retards that use those stupid "send shit to friends" buttons. Most of them of course have been blocked from my email but you never know when someone is gonna become a tool.

    Facebook is actually pretty determined to get access to your mail lists and it isn't just when you first sign up - I ended up getting banned becouse I wouldn't use my real name for my username.

    Shit site full of retards is both shit and retard full. But idiot law types are also idiots.

  64. Matthew Hale

    `twas me!

    Not Anonymous Coward!

    Please, credit where credit is due!


  65. Angela

    Mark - Re your comment

    "Yup, as I've always said, there are fewer differences between men and women than men think. There are also fewer difference between men and women than women hope.

    As to your addition to the noise level, since the respondent was to a query as to how psychotic the MAN was, surely, putting "human" in the codilla would have blamed men and women equally in itself and, in the context of the entire conversation be deriding men as psychotic TWICE? Therefore, it can be seen that their response was even handed. Of course, if you have a vested interest in women not being painted as bad (even where the conversation has already discussed men as being bad), you won't have noticed that, which is why this long and rambling discourse was taken."

    Eeurrgh. As a woman, comments as obscure and pedantic as the above, explains exactly why, after 20 years of restless marriage some women snap and brain their fidgety, nitpicking little husbands with an enormous iron frying-pan.

    Although, with your defence of the previous comment and the obvious sophistry when it comes to gender, I'd guess your search for the perfect soulmate is still ongoing.

  66. Billy Verreynne

    Where nobody knows your name.. not when your one in 34 million

    Er.. sorry.. cannot help but to laugh at all you millions of pathetic idiots on Facebook and other e-social networks.. I mean, just how desperate do you have to be in your real life to want to get a 1000+ friends on Facebook?

    Sheez.. "get a fricken life" probably has no meaning to you either.

    Oh well - at least it keeps all you 34 million idiots out of the local pub.

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