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Obligation to members regarding law enforcement

Someone's been impersonating a "celebrity" on my board



10:36 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It's been going on for 2.5 years, and they're wanting to get the police involved. This is a private board - do I have to allow them in. If I do allow them in, would they be happy just reading the messages from the fake?

Ugh, what a mess. I don't even know why anyone was impersonating this person. Until a few weeks ago, she wasn't even B-movie famous. Just married to someone famous, in another country. But the impersonation started years before s/he knew there would be any publicity.


12:36 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

What is your privacy policy? What are your terms of service? You do have them, right?

Follow them to the letter, and comply with any subpeona or court order.

I would certainly ban this person from further posting, and possibly remove their posts from public view (while preserving the data), assuming that your terms of service permit this action.

Find out what the celebrity would consider an acceptable response, and if that is within your TOS and privacy policy, do so. I imagine they would be satisfied if you prevented the fake from further posts, deleted the material, and put up some kind of notice.

But you almost certainly need to contact an attorney, particulary if you didn't involve one in the formation of your TOS and privacy policy in the first place.


8:48 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It was just a little private board with like ten friends posting on it. We had no idea that we might have a fake in our midst. The posts in question are harmful to no one. There are no threats, no revealing of anything that could be used against anyone. In fact, the fake could actually be "the real" person embellishing certain things. These posts are not available to the general public. There was no privacy policy, it was a hurry up and set something up deal because a Yahoo Group had been deleted. I can't afford a lawyer for, well, anything. Also, this fake or real person, has shown no interest in outside contact with anyone from the board. It's all just random message board talk about tv, politics, pets, etc. Nothing remotely scary or stalkerish. It's basically the equivalent of Foo here, but with political discussions allowed...and dirty words. ;)


2:11 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Who are the "they" who want to get the police involved? The celebrity's representatives or the other board members? If the former, it's hard to see how this could possibly be the real person embellishing things. If the latter, what would the charge be, if the poster hasn't harmed or defrauded anyone? Banning an imposter from the board would be one thing; calling in the police would be an entirely different matter.

[edited by: Beagle at 2:15 pm (utc) on Oct. 15, 2006]


6:32 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

OK, now I am confused.

How did the celebrity find out that somebody was posting as them on your private board?

Did somebody who is a member contact the celebrity outside of the board, thinking they had been communicating with the real deal all along?

It sounds to me like this should not be a big problem, and you should be able to smooth it over. I think a few more details (obviously, without names) would help, though.


6:41 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

"Do I have to allow them in?"

Well, if you knowingly allow someone to damage someone else's reputation without providing the victim a sense of what has happened and a means for them to set the record straight, then that might make you and your site a target for legal action.

Free speech is great. Slander sucks.


9:13 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It seems quite odd that a tiny, private forum would come to the attention of a celebrity. Very strange situation, but immediate removal (and preservation) of the offending material would no doubt be a good first step.


8:58 am on Oct 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Whoops, forgot to come back and address this - it got extra complicated. The why & how are kind of a long story. The possibility of law enforcement being involved is no longer a possibility.

And yes, it was a tiny private board, but it didn't come to the attention of the "celebrity", the "celebrity" helped facilitate the start of the board.

It's a weird story, and for the foreseeable future, there won't be any answers that make any sense. I can't give any details in public, because I don't want them to be public information.


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