As social media networks have expanded in volume, both in platforms and in users, so have the the policies surrounding these unique virtual mediums. This policy network is vast and includes everything from data security to defamation, as well as some of the topics we have covered throughout the course, such as employment law and cyberbullying. Because this network (no pun intended) of policies is so broad, I am focusing on one particular topic for the purposes of this portfolio: e-personation.
E-Personation or “catfishing” is when someone impersonates your character intentionally online. Often, a victim’s name is combined with a stolen image, along with perceived connections to friends and families and other private information to validated the fake profile. E-personation has become common place on run-of-the-mill social media profiles, as well as on dating sites, among school-aged children (“digital drama“), and to parody those with celebrity status. 2014 data on facebook stated “the social networking giant has 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs), meaning that between 67.65 million and 137.76 million accounts are either duplicates or false — a rather gaping range of 70.11 million.”
At present, there is no specific federal law that criminalizes e-personation, but many states cover this under their cyber-bullying laws. The following specific states laws are examples of e-personation protection statutes: Hawaii, Mississippi, California, New York and Texas.
California’s law was the first, passed in January 2011 – the law’s intent is to make cyber impersonation “for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person” a criminal misdemeanor offense. The reason these laws have been passed is because, while some may think these fake accounts are all in good fun, others are used to defame or harm the reputation of innocent people.
This Forbes article offers great insight into the vulnerabilities we all face online, as it pertains to e-personation.
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