There is very little that can be done to stop somebody from
setting up a fake site on social media such as Facebook. When it
does happen, it can be difficult to have it taken down and even
more difficult to undo the damage that may have been done to an
individual or organization and their reputation. What steps should
the Social Media site take to pro-actively try to assist in undoing
any damage? This is the question that arose for a teenaged girl and
her mother and this is the issue that the Federal Privacy
Commissioner addressed in a recent finding.
The facts may be all too common. Somebody created a Facebook
account in the name of a teenaged girl. She did not have a Facebook
account, but the imposter befriended a number of the girls school
mates and proceeded to make inappropriate comments about them.
They, of course, thought that the girl was making them.
The girls' mother contacted Facebook and managed to have it
delete the account and all of the associated content, including the
comments that the imposter had been making. The mother also wanted
Facebook to contact the girl's schoolmates who had been
befriended by the imposter to let them know about the
Facebook refused. It claimed that it would not be appropriate or
practical. It did not want to intervene in personal relations
When an individual successfully demonstrates the inaccuracy
or incompleteness of personal information, the organization shall
amend the information as required. Depending upon the nature of the
information challenged, amendment involves the correction,
deletion, or addition of information. Where appropriate, the
amended information shall be transmitted to third parties having
access to the information in question.
The Commissioner was, "persuaded that in these
circumstances, it would be inappropriate for Facebook to notify
individuals "friended" by the imposter of the deception
as it could potentially re-stigmatize the victim." However,
the Commissioner was concerned about the ongoing consequences, both
reputational and emotional, that can stem from these types of
Accordingly, while she agreed with Facebook's position in
this case, she convinced it to take a case by case approach to
future situations. In cases of impersonation of non-users, it
agreed to "examine and investigate on a case-by-case basis
matters of alleged impersonation that are brought to the site
administrator's attention where the victim of an alleged
impersonation requests a particular kind of assistance. Such
assistance could include Facebook facilitating a process whereby
non-users could themselves notify others who had been friended by
an imposter account."
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