Legal Liability for a Fake Facebook Page

By Elizabeth Smith

Companies can be liable for employees' Facebook activity.
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Facebook is a valuable business and marketing tool, but one that comes with inherent risk. Anything that constitutes a fake Facebook page —whether with small breaches of the Facebook Terms of Service to full-scale misrepresentation — can put your company at risk for legal action. Before your business implements a seemingly innocent work-around strategy or provides unverified information, it is important to be aware of the legal liability your actions create.

Facebook Pages Policy

To protect businesses, individuals and organizations, Facebook stipulates that only authorized representatives may administer a Page for a brand, entity (place or organization), or public figure (see Resources). Users are permitted to create a Fan Page, but it must be clear that the page is not run by an official representative. If you create a fake page for a business, individual or organization, you may expose yourself and your business to legal liability. In most cases, Facebook will simply delete the page. If the content you post on a fake page is false and injurious or damages the public reputation of a person, business or organization, it can be considered libel. The extent of your liability depends on the impact on the impersonated user.

Promotions, Contests and Sales

Many Facebook pages uses promotions and sell products. If you create a fake Facebook page and use it to run promotions or sell items, you are intentionally misleading other users, which can be constituted as mass-marketing fraud. The extent of the liability can vary dramatically from case to case. If you use a fake Facebook page to run contests with no winners, you can be held liable for fraud. Likewise, if you accept payment for goods through a fake Facebook page and do not follow through on the sale, you can be held liable for fraudulent transactions. Promotions that make false or misleading claims about prizes can be viewed as illegal lotteries.

Identity Theft and Identity Fraud

When you create a fake Facebook page that uses the name and information of another business, person or entity, you are effectively committing identity theft. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain." If your fake page uses false identifiers to gather personal information from other users, misrepresent yourself as another Facebook user, or solicit business, you may be charged with identity theft. If prosecuted, you can face imprisonment and fines.

Employee Actions

As an employer, you may be held liable for the actions of an employee who presents fake Facebook information related to your company, customers or competitors. If one of your employees creates a fake Facebook page and uses it to commit illegal actions on behalf of your business, you may be held liable. This type of liability is called "vicarious liability," and it depends on your awareness, whether or not your business benefitted from the employee's actions and the policies you had in place to prevent such actions, among other things. The person who was misrepresented in the fake Facebook page may choose to sue you rather than the employee, particularly if they know that suing a business will reap greater financial settlements.