The anonymity of the internet in general, and, some believe, of social networking sites such as Facebook, continue to cause problems for innocent people. Last week it was reported that a North Canyon High School teacher was placed on administrative leave after nude pictures of her surfaced on Facebook. Her Facebook profile, according to the teacher, was posted not by her, but by an as yet unnamed imposter, and, the teacher asserts, is a complete fake, although she does say that the photos are of her. She also denies distributing the photos, or giving her permission for their use. Her attorney states that the photos were taken in a private setting in the context of an intimate relationship.

We’re not about to comment on the wisdom of having one’s picture taken under these circumstances. We do, however, wish to alert our readers to the dangers of postings on social media sites. The fact is that anyone can go onto a social media site, create a profile page, and then pretend that he or she is someone else. Apparently, this is exactly what happened to the teacher at North Canyon High.

While it may be simple to impersonate someone else on one of these sites, the action could result in criminal charges. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation runs a complaint center and investigates internet crimes, including impersonation. Some states have specific laws dealing with online impersonation. In Arizona, under A.R.S. 13-2008, a false posting on Facebook may, for example, constitute identity theft, a class 4 felony. All that is required is taking any personal information of another without consent and with the intent to use it for an unlawful purpose.

At the present time, 34 states, including Arizona (HB2461), have legislation pending that would specifically criminalize online impersonation.

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