Cyberbullying: Four Teens Sued for Creating Fake Facebook Profile
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2009 Sep 29
A good reminder for parents that they can potentially end up on the hook financially for their kids' cyberbullying. This might prove to be a good case study that parents can discuss with their kids about the potential effects of cyberbullying.
Teenagers can be cruel, and so can the Internet. Mixing the two can lead to some real drama-fests, and four Illinois teenagers are about to find out if there are consequences to using Facebook to aggressively target a classmate. The teens have been accused of creating a fake Facebook profile for one of their peers, representing him as a sexually obscene racist and amassing hundreds of "friends" as if he were running the profile himself, thus potentially running off college recruiters. The teen's mother has now filed a lawsuit against the four, accusing them of defamation and causing severe emotional distress.
According to the complaint, the group created a Facebook profile for John Doe (an apparently well-respected student involved in athletics and other school activities) by using real photos of him and posting some of his real contact information, such as his cell phone number. However, the group also made numerous statements on his profile as him, many of which were obscene, racist, and sexual.
Those behind the fake profile sent vulgar, sexual comments to various peers at school, and the complaint says that at least one person who read the profile represents a collegiate athletic team who raised concerns over recruiting John Doe as a result.
The complaint accuses the four students intended malice when creating the profile, therefore categorizing it as defamation. Not only did Doe's family suffer out-of-pocket costs in dealing with the aftermath of the profile, Doe himself suffered "severe emotional distress" and could have even been passed over by numerous college recruiters. The profile has since been removed by Facebook (after much work by Doe's family, it seems), but the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the four attackers.