by Ha Thang-Trung Hieu
Famous Vietnamese pop singer Thai Thuy Linh expressed shock upon discovering the seemingly endless number of Facebook pages falsely claiming to represent her on the Internet.
"They were all fake pages impersonating me," she said.
With a single click, hundreds of personal Facebook pages attributed to celebrities can be found online.
Their fans are unlikely to be able to distinguish between the real deal and a fake Facebook page.
Netizens are at risk of being targeted by those who create fake Facebook pages, claiming to be celebrities.
The appearance of these fake profiles is not a new phenomenon. Fearing that his image would be used illegally, famous Argentinean football player Lionel Messi hired an information technology expert to manage and protect his website.
In Viet Nam, over the last few years, many famous people have been impersonated by people who want to embarrass them or make use of their images for advertising and securing multi-level sales.
To copy genuine Facebook pages, impersonators update fake profiles using the information and activities of real people. They then copy their victims' photos and write a few articles or make a few comments that appear authentic in order to deceive the online community.
Recently, the genuine page of a well-known actress received less than half of the traffic that a fake page had attracted.
As a corrective measure, the actress had to place a warning on her Facebook page, but many people still mistook her page as the fake one.
Similarly, netizens were recently outraged by the news that famous actress Jennifer Pham was "selling multifunctional ice cream that helps women develop their breasts" on Facebook.
It later came out that this news was false, having been concocted by impersonators who had faked Jennifer Pham's Facebook page to run an illegal business. Unfortunately, her reputation was dealt a harsh blow by the incident.
Recently, during an online talk with the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper, pop star Tung Duong said he had accidentally stumbled across many Facebook pages named "Singer Tung Duong" that made references to selling CDs at a very low price.
"Some people may have the same name, but if someone is impersonating me and using my images without permission, that is not acceptable," Duong said.
This singer could only warn his fans on his two genuine Facebook pages - "Tung Duong - Artist" and "Tung Duong" to protect himself. However, he admitted that he didn't think this would produce any significant results.
Overall, this infringement of privacy and profiteering by creators of fake Facebook pages do not have any serious consequences.
Most celebrities are too busy to do anything about it, while others think these pages are harmless. Even singer Linh said she "(does) not even care". Most celebrities tend to ignore these imposters, as a result.
Legal experts, however, affirm that those whose identities have been exploited can prosecute creators of fake pages when there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
Judge Dong Bich from Ha Noi People's Court said, "The use of the image, private life and reputation of a person in order to profit can absolutely be prosecuted. In each case, it is necessary to consider the behavior of the impersonator to apply the law.
"For example, online sellers with no permit who do business via a fake Facebook page can be prosecuted for conducting an illegal business. The impersonator can also be charged with fraudulent appropriation of property through deception (including making fake celebrity profile pages) in order to profit.
"If an impersonator uses the name and image of a celebrity and posts vulgar words and images on the Internet to offend and destroy the reputation of the real person, the authorities can prosecute him for this intent to humiliate the celebrity," she said.
Agreeing with this opinion, attorney Diem Huong from Ha Noi said prosecuting creators of fake Facebook pages was not easy because the victims typically don't care.
"Besides, it's not easy to determine the difference between genuine Facebook pages and fake ones," she noted.
Although the creation of fake pages is not yet considered a case of forgery, it still carries the risk of serious consequences.
"Merely misusing other people's names for business purposes is not truly worrisome. But if criminals use these pages to spread anti-government propaganda, that is dangerous because the individual pages of famous people are always followed by many thousands of people," said Huong. — VNS