Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fake e-Identities

Recently there have been several cases where teens created fake Facebook or Twitter accounts as a way to bully peers or to make it appear that the principal was sending offensive comments. These false accounts are forcing schools to deal with the behavior. In many states these false identities would violate the law and are a form of identity theft or cyber-impersonation. Thirty-eight states have laws against "electronic harassment" and fourteen ban "cyberbullying."

In most cases, the victim is unaware that the false identity has been created and in some cases must deal with the negative response to the posts.

There is murky legal guidance about the extent to which schools can police off-site social media accounts and fake social media profiles. In two separate cases, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled punishments of students unconstitutional (J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District; Layshock v. Hermitage School District). The most prudent approach may be simply to refer the case to local law enforcement agencies who have far clearer opportunities for enforcing state law in this area.