Aaron Ochs is the author of “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It,” a nonfiction uncovering the defamatory, deceptive and criminal practices of online tabloid CalCoastNews.
In San Luis Obispo County, California, a man named David William Platek was charged with felony identity theft for impersonation. He reportedly created an account to impersonate controversial local figure Kevin P. Rice and posted false statements about him intending to damage the figure’s reputation. Platek reportedly registered the account in the figure’s name, copied the figure’s profile photo over to the fake account and started posting.
If Platek is found guilty and his alleged online impersonation are determined to be felonious, then the floodgates will and should open for extensive criminal prosecution.
California law states that “false impersonation” is a crime when the offender “personates” someone falsely in their public or private capacity and perform “any other act that might cause the person you are impersonating to become liable to a lawsuit or prosecution or become obligated to pay money, or which might cause you to get some benefit from impersonating him/her” (Penal Code 529).
When it comes to “personating” someone online, it’s ridiculously and unfortunately easy to do. To register an account on Facebook, you can use any name you want, any email address you like, password, a random birthday, random gender, and you’re done. According to Facebook, signing up for an account is “quick and easy.” And once you verify the email address you’ve provided, you’re a few clicks and keystrokes away from undermining someone’s reputation.
According to website Brands on Digital, Fake account profile are likely to have the following:
- Their profile Image uses a stock image
- They haven’t posted any photos
- No friends, lack of friends and friends in common
- Lack of activity on their wall
- Cover photos doesn’t add up with profile photo
- Their post activity is non coherent or written in bad English