Now a days, social networking has become buzz of the day. People continue to throng social networking sites in more and more numbers every day. There is nothing wrong with social networking as long as it is used for the purpose it is meant for. The problem creeps when one tries to befool others by pretending as someone else after stealing that person’s identity.
I’ll tell you an interesting piece of story on Twitter to which I was myself a witness. A girl named Ritu Walia (name changed to protect identity), a 19-year old teenager from Haryana, created a Twitter account with the name of Nareshgoyal9w, mentioned profile name as Naresh Goyal, wrote in the Bio as Chairman of Jet Airways, uploaded a background design featuring exclusively Naresh Goyal and also used his photograph as profile photo. Since, Mr. Naresh Goyal in reality had no existing account on Twitter at that point of time, anyone could easily leverage it to one’s advantage. Probably, Ritu’s intentions were not in that line and may be she wanted to just exploit it for entertainment purpose.
Gradually, she started tweeting many famous personalities posing as Mr. Naresh Goyal. One amongst them was our dear Mr. Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group. Posing as Naresh Goyal, she tweeted Mr. Mahindra, “I am following you”. Mr. Mahindra reciprocated by mentioning, “And i shall follow u back, Nareshji!” (See the actual snapshot below)
From here started the tussle. After corporate big shots themselves started following Nareshgoyal9w, many ordinary people like us also fell in line with them and as a result, the followers of the user Nareshgoyal9w started increasing exponentially. However, a judicious user named Mr. Kumara Guru (kumaraguru), Associate Director – Dean’s Office at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, preferred to confirm with Jet Airways if Nareshgoyal9w was the official Twitter handle of Mr. Goyal. JetAirways tweeted Mr. Guru with the following message:
Mr. Guru was quick to retweet it to Mr. Mahindra to bring it to his knowledge that NareshGoyal9w was a fake user posing as Mr. Goyal. Realising this, Mr. Mahindra in turn retweeted this to all his followers to spread the word:
Only after Jet Airways, threatened to sue Ritu for impersonation and reported the matter to Twitter, she realised that she had committed a blunder and the only way to escape was to disclose the full identity and seek apology publicly. She then changed the profile name to mention her name explicitly and mentioned the Twitter account Bio as Fan Club of Naresh Goyal. She also tweeted Mr. Mahindra that she never stated that the account belonged to Mr. Naresh Goyal. Then Mr. Mahindra retweeted this to all his followers taking the sympathetic view.
The problems didn’t end here. How can such an issue remain away from the glare of media? Ritu started getting the tweets from Surender Sharma, a Delhi based journalist. He continuously tweeted Ritu and insisted her to give her phone number or else make a call on his number. Ritu was so afraid by this point of time that she was not in a position to take any step without the guidance of her parents. The journalist was continuously insisting Ritu (through tweets) to share her side of the story. Ritu didn’t call the journalist. But, the next day, she could see her actions becoming news in some of the web media and this was reported by the same journalist – Surender Sharma.
See, how an act, though committed unintentionally, may lead to serious consequences and one may end up not only getting defamed but also find him/her behind the bars within no time. 19-year student old Ritu Walia was a real-life example.
Some people may be lucky enough to not get the attention of their Identity Theft efforts. One amongst them is Mr. Jaydip Parikh who seemingly ran a parallel Twitter account of Mr. Narendra Modi, Gujrat CM by the name thenarendramodi. From first look, the foremost purpose of his creating the account seemed to be directing the traffic to his website from the links posted in Tweets from this account. I was well aware of the official account of Mr. Modi because I was following and was also being followed by Mr. Modi on Twitter. It was only after my tweets to Jaydip that he changed the Twitter Name from “Narendra Modi” to “Narendra Modi Blog” and mentioned in the Bio that the account was an unofficial blog and not real twitter account of Mr. Modi. Otherwise, his case could have been even more complicated than that of Ritu Walia.
Under Indian Cyber Law, Identity Theft on social networking sites is a crime and as such the person committing this act is punishable under the law. It’s high time we understood the consequences of Identity Theft on social networking sites.
Remember that Social Media should improve your life, not cost you your life!!!