Synthetic Identity

If your friend, co-worker, family member conveniently leaves their facebook open, resist the temptation to mess with said friend, co-worker, or family member by posting odd/offensive/misrepresenting posts or blocking them out of their account. According to Time, a mother was fined for getting into her son’s account and then blocking him out of it. Of course, as with most things, there seems to be more to their relationship than just this instance as the mother “is also no longer allowed to see her son, who has lived with his grandmother for the past five years.”

By this point, you probably understand that I find facebook utterly fascinating. In this instance, she was charged with harassment, but why not fraud? Or defamation of character?

Just to get this part out of the way, I do not believe that having this woman convicted will mean that parents everywhere will have no supervision over their child’s internet activities. This particular case seemed to have a particularly high level of what was determined to be harassment. The actions appeared to be severe and, therefore, the punishment matched. Forbidding a child to use or post certain things in his or her facebook would not be the same thing.

But on to my thought. Wouldn’t inhabiting someone’s profile and misrepresenting them be fraud more than harassment, because your profile is like a synthetic being? There is this thing out there that stands in for you–it tells everyone who you are and connects you to the people you know, but in Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, it can be jacked and then suddenly, it does not represent you. It does not communicate what you want it to and you have no control over that. Perhaps the charge should be identity theft?

Of course, yes, in this case, it was harassment, but I certainly see the case for identity theft, but, perhaps, this is just semantics?