Instagram user impersonates child, bullies her friends
We've all been told to watch what we say on the Internet because it can't always be erased -- but what if the things you're supposedly saying aren't actually coming from you at all?
Internet impersonators are nothing new. Twitter accounts imitating stars such as Johnny Manziel and Will Farrell have hundreds of thousands of followers. The difference, though, is people are in on the joke.
This story is about the impersonation of a regular person - worse yet, a child.
ABC says Arizona mother Brooke Barr was surprised to see her 12-year-old daughter Reve had liked one of Barr's posts on Instagram. Barr had made it clear that Reve wasn't allowed to use Instagram. At first she thought Reve's dad had let her have an account -- but she definitely didn't.
"The impersonator used photos from Brooke's account. Then came the phone calls from Reve's friends, claiming they'd been sent nasty messages."
ABC quoted Reve saying: "It makes me feel kind of sad and just weird. I don't know why someone would do this to me, and hurt me and my friends."
Reve's mother vowed to the bullying victims she would track down the impersonator. Unfortunately, that might be easier said than done. KNXV reports:
"Gilbert police told Brooke that because Reve was not directly harassed, she is not considered a victim."
According to ProPublica, police can track IP addresses if a judge issues a subpoena or search warrant. But in this case, they can only act if Reve's friends request legal action.
If Reve's friends do so, though, the impersonator would likely only face charges of cyberbullying. At this time, Arizona has no law against impersonation over the Internet.
House Bill 2004 was introduced to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2013. The bill's objective was to criminalize cyber impersonation "with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten." The bill, however, died in committee.
The Huffington Post reported critics of the bill thought the phrase "intent to harm" could easily be interpreted too broadly, and this could endanger citizens' first-amendment rights.
The article did say Texas, New York, California, and Washington have all approved anti-Internet impersonation laws. Only time will tell if, or when, more states will join.