Online impersonators could seriously hurt your business

It is a sad fact that social networking seems to have spawned its own version of identity theft – people pretending to be celebrities.

Businesses with social networks which take a lax attitude towards impersonation could find that more serious complaints follow, such as defamation or invasion of privacy, if the impersonator begins making slanderous or false statements.

Third-party social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have taken a zero-tolerance approach to impersonation of any kind, terminating any account if they suspect it is being run by an impersonator.

The need for moderating networks for impersonation has been driven by a number of celebrity cases, such as Beyonce Knowles, who recently considered taking legal action against people impersonating her on Twitter.

Whoopi Goldberg now refuses to create an online profile, as she feels powerless over the countless pages attributed to her on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Meanwhile, a Twitter account that gathered over 20,000 followers under the guise of the Dalai Lama was recently pulled after representatives informed the company that the profile had been created by an impersonator.

Software enables you to identify whether a post is being made with the username of, or worded as though coming from, a public figure. That way, if a complaint is received, there is an audit trail to follow and appropriate action can be swiftly taken.

What is really important is that potential problems are spotted early and, if not addressed at the time, recorded so that a fast response can be made in the event that the real Beyonce, for example, stands up and expresses her displeasure.

What the courts don’t like to see is a slack attitude on the part of the publishers of user-generated content when it comes to material that may turn out to be defamatory or privacy-invading.

Rob Marcus, Director, Chat Moderators

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