Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are plagued by users abusing the fact that all someone needs to sign up is a valid email address.
In the most recent incident, reported last night by MSNBC, Matthew Firsht from the U.K. won nearly $44,000 in a lawsuit against a former friend that created a libelous profile in Matthew’s name. Because apparently, when some “adults” join a social network originally used by only college and high school students, they feel compelled to behave like 14 year olds.
The former friend / culprit / juvenile delinquent, Grant Raphael, added intentionally incorrect information about Matthew in regards to his sexuality, political views and finances. When Grant claimed that someone else must have created the page on his computer when his party was crashed last year, the judge called the statement “far-fetched” and awarded Matthew nearly $30,000 for libel, $4,000 for breach of privacy and $10,000 for libel against his company.
The silver lining of this story is that Facebook did an excellent job managing the problem, promptly removing the phony profile and cooperating with the proceedings which helped Matthew win his case. This however, is clearly not the first fake account to be created and surely will not be the last.
Do you think Facebook and other social networks will begin requiring more verification when people create profiles? How can we protect our identities and prevent this from happening in the future?