The internet is a frightening place — Catfish taught us that. In the digital sphere, the distinction between fact and facade is harder to discern. So, it can be difficult to tell if you're talking to Justin Bieber, or to a 42-year-old professor from Brisbane, Australia. This is exactly how one man racked up 931 alleged sex offenses.
According to Queensland Police News, the man posed as Bieber on "multiple online platforms" in order to engage with minors on the internet. Reportedly, police discovered child exploitation material on the man's computer that he'd procured by impersonating the 23-year-old pop star online. The charges against the man, whom Mashable reports is a law professor, include rape, indecent treatment of children, and making child exploitation material. Allegedly, the man's offenses go back as far as 2007. (Given that Bieber was only 13 in 2007, it's not likely the accused impersonated Bieber back then.) The Queensland police attributes the alarming number of offenses to faulty online security.
"The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety," Detective Inspector Jon Rouse told the Police News.
The detective also insinuated that the seeming free reign children have on the internet is at least partially at fault. He added, "This investigation demonstrates both the vulnerability of children that are utilizing social media and communication applications and the global reach and skill that child sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims."
Bieber is markedly popular with a younger demographic. When the Canadian crooner first rose to popularity in 2010, he was only 16. Representation for Bieber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the developing story.