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Catfishing photo by Diane Valle

Think Twice Before Revenge-Posting on Social Media!

by Cat Itaya and David Preciado May 25, 2017

Have you ever been tempted to create a fake social media page?  Have you ever, after a personal relationship sours, considered impersonating your former friend online and posting damaging photos and text?  If so, think again.  Revenge-posting inaccurate and damaging online content about someone else may expose you to civil liability in federal court.  The City Bar Justice Center’s Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project in the Eastern District of New York has seen federal lawsuits brought against individuals who created online profiles in other people’s names.  “Catfishing”— or creating a false online profile— may subject its writer to serious consequences if he or she uses the profile to post damaging and false information about another person.

State laws against defamation prohibit the publication of false and damaging information about another person.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects publication of truthful information and opinion no matter how embarrassing it may be.  But, publicizing falsehoods about another person to tarnish his or her reputation may land you in court. Consider this example: a partner spurned by a former flame impersonates her ex on Facebook, warding off other suitors by exaggerating her ex’s bad habits.  While this impersonation might give the writer temporary satisfaction, the potential legal consequences can be very expensive.

In sum: think twice before you “catfish” for revenge.  Not only could it cost you a lot of money, but it could also cost you several months of your life defending a federal lawsuit.  And remember, your employer may have its own rules about using social media. Proceed with caution– you may face serious legal consequences.

Photo credit: Diane Valle
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