A fake account is essentially an account on any social mediaplatform where the displayed details are actually dishonest, oreven fraudulent. Misrepresentation on fake accounts, using fakedetails mislead the general public, into disseminating inaccurateinformation, or collecting financial or personal details.
As per the data collected in 2019 by Swedish e-commerce start-upA Good Company and analytics firm HypeAuditor which included theassessment of more than 1.84 million Instagram accounts across 82countries, the top three markets with the highest numbers of fakeaccounts were the United States (49 million), Brazil (27 million),and India (16 million). Moreover, as per Facebook's enforcementanalytics report, it is estimated that about 5% (i.e. close to 90million) profiles on their platform are fake.
Different kinds of fake accounts can be found on socialnetworking sites. Most fake accounts are made using the informationprovided by other users, without their knowledge. These accountsare usually used by imposters to attain sensitive information suchas credit card details, other financial details, or personalinformation from users.
It is reported that another set of fake accounts are created bypolitical parties and corporations to influence media trends. Theseaccounts are usually created by bots which imitate human behavior,in order to promote a particular ideology or product. There havebeen several instances wherein these accounts continuously use hashtags and repost content to increase their visibility andpopularity.
Many celebrities have also reported fake accounts that are beingused in their name. Such accounts use the personal data andinformation of a celebrity to create a seemingly official account.Imposters use these fake accounts to cheat and defraud layfans/supporters.
There is no specific law in place that holds social mediaplatforms liable for the creation of fake accounts within theirnetwork. This is because the network only acts as an intermediaryand does not directly create the account. The safe-harbor immunitygiven under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000,protects intermediary social media networks from liability forcontent posted thereon by third parties. Under Section 79 of theInformation Technology Act, 2000 an online portal which acts as anintermediary i.e only receives, stores, transmits or communicatesan electronic record will not be liable for any third-partyinformation or communication that is available on it. However, theprovisions state that upon receiving 'actual knowledge'that any information, data or communication link residing in theportal is used to commit an unlawful act, then the intermediarybecomes liable to take such content down. Unfortunately no clarityhas been provided with regard to what constitutes 'actualknowledge'. Although the Shreya Singhal1case required a 'court order' to be considered as actualknowledge, the Delhi HC in MySpace2 caseremoved this need with regard to removal of content.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and DigitalMedia Ethics Code) Rules 2021 has incorporated various regulationsintended to be helpful in combating the nuisance of fake accounts.Under these guidelines, every social media site has theresponsibility to set up a grievance redressal mechanism whereincomplaints can be lodged against any content available on thatsite. Under rule 3(2)(b) if the intermediary upon the receipt ofcomplaint, finds that the impugned content is in the nature ofimpersonation in an electronic form, including artificially morphedimages, then it shall take all reasonable and practicable measuresto remove or disable access to such content which is hosted,stored, published or transmitted by it. These guidelines and thegrievance redressal system set up under it would be supportive forusers to report fake profiles. The guidelines also state thatintermediaries are required to report cybersecurity incidents andshare related information with the Indian Computer EmergencyResponse Team.
The most relevant section for fake accounts is Sec 66D of the ITAct which states that: "Whoever, by means of anycommunication device or computer resource cheats by personation,shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for aterm which may extend up to three years and shall also be liable toa fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees". MoreoverSec 66C of the Act states that "Whoever, fraudulently ordishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or anyother unique identification feature of any other person, shall bepunished with imprisonment of either description for a term whichmay extend to three years and shall also be liable to finewith may extend to rupees one lakh."
In case of fake accounts that are used to cheat others byappropriating the personal information of other users without theirconsent or by using made-up personal details, the creator can beheld liable under Section 416 of the IPC which deals with cheatingby personation. The provision states that a person is said to'cheat by personation' if he cheats by pretending to besome other person. The imposter would be held guilty whether theindividual personated is a real or imaginary person. Under Section468, any person who commits forgery of an electronic record for thepurpose of cheating would also be held guilty.
The guideline specifies that complaints must be acknowledgedwithin 24 hours and disposed of within 15 days. Howevermodifications need to be introduced to improve the application ofcriminal provisions to electronic offences. Moreover, social medianetworks need to increase their vigilance in detecting fakeprofiles and they must be held responsible to ensure authenticityof information available on the platform.
A House opposition leader said on Monday that the mushrooming of thousands of cloned or dummy accounts on Facebook could be a prelude to a crackdown on activists, who may be framed for violations of the terror bill through fake posts.
While opening an account in the facebook, everyone agree to the terms and conditions of the facebook. These terms and conditions are the governing regulation of using the account and regulate the relationship between the facebook authority and its users. As per the said terms and conditions, facebook will not take the liability or responsibility for a situation where anyone opens a fake account in facebook. Facebook may, however, terminate that alleged fake account as they do not permit anyone to open an account for someone else. Hence, you can report against that person to facebook administration. Whether or not facebook administrator will terminate the fake account is a matter of their discretion. In case where a person posts content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic or where the account is used by someone to do anything unlawful, misleading or malicious or where the account is opened by using fake personal information, facebook administration is generally inclined to block such account. However, whether or not someone has opened an account with false personal information is a matter of fact and may always be controversial once someone else will allege that his personal information has been used by others. In such a case, unless the matter is visibly obvious, the alleged false account may not be terminated. As a matter of fact, even if the account is terminated the wrongdoer can very easily open another fake account using your personal details. According to facebook, they try to keep facebook bug-free and safe. But anyone using facebook uses the same on his own risk. They do not give any guarantee that facebook will be safe or secure. They are not responsible for the actions, content, information or data of third parties and the person using facebook have to release them, their directors, officers, employees, and agents from any claims and damages, known and unknown, arising out of or in anyway connected with any claim that is against any third parties. Having said the same, it is sad but true that except for lodging as complain in the form of reporting to the facebook administrator, you are left with very little practical solution to the problem. This should be mentioned that you certainly do not have any valid claim against the facebook authority for this unwanted occurrence.
I hope that the above shall help you to fix your next course of action. As a first step, you should report the account to the facebook administrator and may decide to lodge a GD before the police station
We regularly receive reports of fake profiles and pages being used to promote anything from free airline flights to suspect medical and beauty trial offers. Accounts can also be compromised and used to scam friends and family so it pays to review your privacy settings, be aware of what information you share online and protect your account with a strong, unique password. 2b1af7f3a8