Facebook is joining forces with California prison officials to disable accounts that belong to inmates which are found to be updated while they are incarcerated.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the cooperative effort between law enforcement officials and Facebook would help protect the community and prevent inmates using social networking or cell phones to deliver threats or unwanted sexual advances.
Though most prisoners in California do not have access to the Internet, inmates are maintaining their accounts using smuggled cellphones or having someone on the outside do it for them, according to CDCR.
The partnership between CDCR and the popular social networking site was announced after California corrections official received hundreds of complaints from victims who were contacted by prison inmates behind bars.
"Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity," CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement. "This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims."
Andrew Noyes, spokesperson for Facebook, believes that the most effective way of preventing inmates from accessing illegal accounts is by keeping contraband cellphones out of prisoners' hands.
"If a state has decided that prisoners have forfeited their right to use the Internet, the most effective way to prevent access is to ensure prisons have the resources to keep smartphones and other devices out," he said.
Noyes promised Facebook will "take appropriate action" against anyone who uses the site to threaten or harass.
The policy will not apply to inmates who created an account before they were sentenced and have not used it while in prison.
Facebook's policies prohibit an individual other than the registered user from updating a Facebook account, which happens occasionally when an inmate asks a friend or family member to access their page.
"We will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside," said Noyes.
Last year the California corrections department was made aware of a convicted child molester who viewed the Facebook and MySpace pages of his victim, then mailed her family some drawings of the girl, officials said.
The victim was 10 years old when she was molested and was contacted by the offender seven years later. He even knew what her current hairstyle was and what brand of clothes she wore.
Law enforcement officials are trying to combat the huge influx of contraband cellphones in prison. Some 7,284 cellphones were confiscated in the first six months of this year, up from 261 devices in 2006.