Teens Sued for Fake Facebook Profile


What would you do if someone impersonated you on Facebook, amassed hundreds of friends and then used the site to tarnish your reputation?

An Illinois mother says that's what happened to her teenage son, and the two are striking back with a lawsuit.

In a 20-page document filed with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., Sept. 23, Laura Cook and her son, a minor identified only as "John Doe," allege that four pranksters created a fake profile page impersonating the plaintiff that included racist and explicitly sexual comments.

The Facebook page, which attracted at least 580 friends, also falsely identified the teen as being homosexual, the lawsuit said.

Charging the four defendants with five separate counts, including defamation and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the teen and his mother are asking for an unspecified amount in damages that exceeds $50,000.

Lawsuit Claims Profile Harmed Teen's Reputation

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Charles Mudd, told ABCNews.com that given the sensitivity and timing of the case, the plaintiffs are not yet ready to speak to the press. But he said they are taking legal action because of the damage the false Facebook page has done to the teen's reputation and, potentially, his future.

"You can imagine the horror of a parent finding a fake Facebook profile purporting to be their child that contains information that could be harmful to their child," he said. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that the teen, who is an athlete, had to change coaches and academic advisers as a result of the fake profile.

Mudd said the family learned this summer from an acquaintance that a false profile that included the teen's picture and cell phone number had been created on the social networking site Facebook.

According to the lawsuit, in the "personal information" section of the bogus profile, the defendants had posted "obamas cool, but hes black sooo…"

The lawsuit also said some of the sexual statements "described the Plaintiff as enjoying and/or engaging in sexual acts" and "as being homosexual and engaging in sexual acts with other males."

Mudd declined to elaborate but said the profile had been active for four weeks before the mother and son worked with Facebook to shut it down.

Fraudsters Can Be Tracked Through IP Addresses

When asked how the teen and his mother knew the four defendants were behind the fake profile, Mudd wouldn't provide details but said, "We know those four were involved.

"Upon learning the identities of these four individuals, my client felt betrayed," he said. "It was not something that my client expected."

If served with a subpoena or contacted by law enforcement, Facebook can disclose IP (Internet protocol) addresses, which are the unique numbers assigned to each computer and can be used to track fraudsters. But Mudd said that IP addresses had not yet been subpoenaed.

Though he said he feels confident that Illinois law would find that the defendants' statements were defamatory and that privacy interests were involved, he said laws surrounding cyber-bullying could be enhanced.

"I would say that they could be strengthened," Mudd said. "I think it would be helpful to have a specific statute providing either criminal or providing a civil remedy for this type of conduct."

He added that parental awareness of cyber-bullying and online privacy issues needs to increase.

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