Australia’s political class is responding to the increased threat of online blackmail, after former New South Wales deputy premier Andrew Stoner revealed he had been blackmailed through the social media site LinkedIn. Now, a Sydney mayor has come forward to admit that he was also caught in a similar situation.
Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone said that his interactions with a user named ‘Pearl’ eventually led to threats of blackmail and intended extortion. But, as the mayor explains, it all started very innocently.
“When you’re the mayor you try and be very active and very approachable and you try to engage your local community and regularly I get hundreds of requests to join up with LinkedIn, of which I do,” he explained.
“On this one occasion it was a lady … that was an advocate against child abuse, and subsequently I then received some messages from her to connect with her on LinkedIn. The messages that she provided were just general, like how am I going.”
But from that point onward, things became more interesting. Soon, the woman began sending the Mayor inappropriate photos of herself. “The photos were of her and I just didn’t think that was appropriate,” he told the ABC. “Nothing explicit, but I would say that they were perhaps leading.” Before too long, Mr. Carbone cut off communication and went public with the strange incident.
Mr. Carbone advised caution and careful use among the nation’s many politicians, with other international politicians becoming embroiled in similar scandals.
“People need to be very, very careful about who they interact with because there are those obviously that will take advantage,” he advised. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a politician, if you’re a teacher or a teenager, people need to be very, very aware that these people exist out there. And I wasn’t entrapped in it. I didn’t engage in it, but obviously there are many that do.”
A spokesman for LinkedIn insisted that safety was paramount for users of their employment-centred social media service.
“When we detect or are notified of any such violations, we take immediate steps to investigate and rectify where necessary,” the spokesman told the ABC. “While we continue to improve the safeguards we have in place to protect our members and clients, we recommend our members to connect only with people they know and trust, and take the necessary precautions in online interactions, bearing in mind that there are people who will occasionally misuse the online space.”
With increasing emphasis on social media profiles and net-based outreach, the nation’s politicians are perhaps vulnerable to the same online threats faced by their constituents. As the game changes, they too must become aware of the rules of engagement.
However, this experience should also act as a warning, as Mr Carbone advised, for all LinkedIn users to be wary of sinister social media users. For those seeking more security, LinkedIn offers an online safety service.
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