News

2 Texas College Students Outed by Facebook Loophole

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Oct 17, 2012
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Two University of Texas-Austin students have been outed to their friends and family due to a Facebook privacy loophole, despite taking measures to make sure their sexual orientation was hidden on the social media website, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The students, Bobbi Duncan, 22, and Taylor McCormick, 21, both attend the Texas college and were outed to everyone on their Facebook after they were added to the college’s discussion group for the Queer Chorus by the choir’s president, Christopher Acosta, who was unaware the move would reveal the students’ sexual orientation to their loved ones.

"I felt like someone had hit me in the stomach with a bat," Duncan told the WSJ.

After the young adults were added to the group, a note was posted to all of their Facebook friends saying that they were members of the school’s Queer Chorus. Facebook does not require users to approve such a request and automatically makes the notification public.

Even though Duncan and McCormick have used the website’s privacy settings to make sure that their parents did not find out about their sexual orientation, there was no way they could have prevented the notification from entering their family’s feeds.

"Our hearts go out to these young people," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said. "Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls."

Duncan came out to her best friend last year but did not want tell her father, whom she helped set up a Facebook account. McCormick also did not want his father to know that he was gay because he is a member of a conservative church that teaches being gay is a sin.

"We have the one big secret when we’re young," he told the publication. "I knew not everyone was going to be accepting."

Soon after Duncan was outed, her father began leaving her angry voice mails, she said.

"No no no no no no no," Duncan said she told a friend. "I have him hidden from my updates, but he saw this," she said. "He saw it."

’We have the one big secret when we’re young. I knew not everyone was going to be accepting.’

When she finally spoke with her dad he threatened to stop paying for her car insurance and demanded that she go on Facebook, leave the chorus and renounce that she is gay.

"To all you queers. Go back to your holes and wait for GOD," Duncan’s father wrote on his Facebook soon after the incident. "Hell awaits you pervert. Good luck singing there."

She says the ordeal caused her to go into depression and that she couldn’t "function" for weeks.

"I would be in class and not hear a word anyone was saying," she said.

When McCormick’s father discovered that his son was gay, the student’s mother called him and said that "shit hit the fan" and "it was all over Facebook." For three weeks, the young man’s father refused to talk to him and he says, "He just dropped off the face of my earth."

But the two discussed his sexual orientation during a lunch and although they haven’t talked about it much since, McCormick says he feels more open and proud about who he is and even changed his Facebook profile to say "Interested in: Men."

Despite Duncan’s efforts, her father still argued about her sexuality and the young woman decided to stop returning her dad’s phone calls in May.

"I finally realized I don’t need this problem in my life anymore," she told the WSJ. "I don’t think he is evil, he is just incredibly misguided."

Her mother, however, has been supportive and moved into her apartment with her.

"I wanted to be with her," her mother said. "This was something that I thought her father had crossed the line over, and I could not agree with him."

Facebook has three options for discussion groups, which are "secret," where only members can see the group, "closed," which allows non-members to see the group but not its posts and "open," which allows all users to see.

This article is part of our "HomoTech" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2012-10-17 10:27:52

    I feel so bad for these young people. Life is hard enough charting a course at that age without being forced to handle something so huge without preparation. Facebook should give them each a scholarship and correct this "loophole" issue.


  • Garrett Pattiani, 2012-10-17 12:10:35

    I disagree. Facebook did them a favor. The dad needs to know his child is gay. It’s the only way that minds change. When people realize that someone they love is gay. Being in the closet keeps minds closed. He might be angry now, but with time they usually come around.


  • Ian Chai, 2012-10-17 13:41:12

    Garrett, what if those two were receving money from parents? The ends does not justify the means


  • Anonymous, 2012-10-17 15:47:06

    I’m here to tell you some parents NEVER come around.It’s better if a young person is self-sufficient, has a back-up plan in place or has some emotional support systems established BEFORE they come out. Why do you think there are so many teen suicides? It’s because they had no adequate or obvious souces of unconditional love and emotional support readily available.


  • Kyra Berenz, 2012-10-17 15:52:36

    Garrett - while I agree that there comes a time when the family must know in order to change their view, this is not the way to do it. A person must be ready, prepared themselves to handle the reactions. They are the ones who need to decide when the time is right. While I don’t blame facebook, its not to say they "did them a favor" in exposing them accidently. Facebook doesnt need pumished, just updated to thwart future incidents like theirs.


  • Anonymous, 2012-10-17 20:13:44

    *shrugs* I’d likely be dead now if Facebook was around when I was younger. That old story with going to the woods with the lame hunting dog, the master only with a rifle.Unlike the puppy story, the rifle wouldn’t of left the woods, nor the master would of entered; expectations and all that.A comforting tale for the gay son when another family distress is happening.Routing a course really is required some days, and I would choose not to have my parents on my Facebook page. Even now I may be pushing it with a 6 hour flight being required.


  • BOB KELLERMAN, 2012-10-17 23:49:12

    What can I say to Garrett except you are a complete idiot and obviously do not live in Texas


  • Anonymous, 2012-10-18 15:33:04

    Hey Bob, you need to be nice. There is enough Christian meaness in this world to go around...they don’t need our help.


  • Anonymous, 2012-10-18 20:39:50

    Saddens me to think a parent would turn their own flesh and blood away. Hate is so powerful :(


  • Anonymous, 2012-10-19 02:04:57

    Yes its a sad scenario but (1) I wouldn’t post anything on the web that I want to keep secret and (2) I left texas and the Bible belt at the first opportunity and never looked back.


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