Legal Implications of Fake Profiles and How to spot one

Nitish ChandanCyber Security, Law

A—”Hey, how many friends have you got on Facebook?”

B—”Ummm… 2000, maybe?”

A—”Fakes in there?”

B—”What? I don’t know, who cares?”

Start caring dear friends! Numbers released from Facebook suggest that 83 million Facebook accounts are fake.

“So what?”

These Facebook accounts may be human or bots, popularly known as social bots that keep creating fake accounts and many researchers are on the hunt to track them down. Consequently, they spread spam and viruses or dupe users to steal their data or very recently, to lure people into some modelling sham and then ultimately to get them trafficked or robbed. Moreover, you never know if you are vulnerable. Therefore, the best deal is to stay away from these profiles and don’t ever create one yourself.

We’ll deal with two things here: 1) Legal Implications of Creating a fake profile in India; and 2) How to spot a fake profile.

How to spot a fake profile:

Firstly, your best shot is to run a Google search for the image. Using this simple reverse engineering technique, you can bust a fake profile. However, if that does not work,  your subsequent other means are to be investigative and stalk the wall, photos, friends and behaviour on the ID. If you notice a fake ID, be sure to report it.

Legal Implications:
  • Just Identity Theft:
    If you ever face a situation where your identity has been stolen (could be your photograph used on a social media network and by your name), you can always remember that Section 66C of the IT Act is the saviour. Furthermore, if the authority you reach out to does not know this, your knowledge of your legal rights can help you. This section attracts 3 years of imprisonment. Section 66C gives you the protection from forging “electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature”.
  • Includes Cheating:
    In this case, you can use Section 468 of the IPC and Section 66D of the IT Act. The punishment under Section 468 can be up to 7 years. Now consider the scenario that you are the CEO of XYZ company and someone creates a profile in your name and offers a job for some consideration to anyone. If you find this out you must go to the Police to file an FIR under these two sections. Because cheating has a very wide scope, the punishment for cheating in such a case is 7 years. Hence, you can use this to your advantage.
For the law students, let me clarify Section 468 here:

“Whoever commits forgery, intending that the [document or electronic record forged] shall be used for the purpose of cheating…”—Section 2(1)(t) of the IT Act defines electronic records as “data, record or data generated, image or sound”. Hence, this includes voice biometrics or stuff like that apart from just images.

Subsequently, to invoke defamation, note that:

  • The IT Act doesn’t correlate identity theft and defamation. They are mentioned independently;
  • You can use sections 66E, 67, and 67A of the IT Act for obscene content. Additionally, if you claim defamation under these provisions, the punishment can be as high as 5-7  years. Section 66A as you know is also dead.
  • Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC clearly talk about defamation and the punishment is 2 years. Furthermore, you can invoke section 464 of the IPC to raise the punishment bar to 3 years if the perpetrator committed forgery.

Fake Profile

To read this article in Hindi, click here. | इस आर्टिकल को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें।