Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Imposter profiles: No easy solution
Imposter profiles are one form of cyberbullying or online harassment certainly not restricted to youth. Tweens, teens, and adults create profiles that impersonate the people they want to harass, putting them in an embarrassing or defaming light. There are also simply fake profiles of imaginary people aimed at tricking the real people who "befriend" the imaginary people in the fake profiles, which is what happened in the Megan Meier case (see "Extreme cyberbullying: US case comes to light." In a well-reported article, ConsumerAffairs.com describes a few actual imposter-profile cases and how hard it is to make them go away. Part of the problem is that, online, it's much easier to set up a profile than it is to prove its harmful intent or impact. Some people who click the "Report Abuse" buttons in sites are actually being abusive - of the site as well as their peers. "MySpace includes a link at the bottom of every profile to report abuse, but many people misuse this to harass someone who has posted a legitimate profile," ConsumerAffairs reports. The article includes no solutions to this growing problem because there simply are no known ones besides better, more civil behavior on everybody's part and education aimed at that and at the fact that we're not as anonymous online as we all think we are. ConsumerAffairs also goes into the law and how little it can do in these cases.