Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Forms of Online Harassment


9
Impersonation
How do you know that the real Katy Perry wrote this tweet? Twitter added a blue badge with a checkmark next to her name to show they verified the account (not pictured). Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
How do you know that the real Katy Perry wrote this tweet? Twitter added a blue badge with a checkmark next to her name to show they verified the account (not pictured). Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

No, I'm not talking about Elvis here, although it's safe to say that this most popular of impersonation icons has more than a few false social media accounts in his name. While slapping on some sideburns and a bedazzled suit is a relatively innocuous way to impersonate someone, true online impersonation is far more sinister.

Sadly, it's easy enough to create an online presence in someone else's name, simply by creating a social media account — or 20. The major problem is, of course, that these accounts are created with less-than-stellar intentions in mind, leaving the violator open to harassment claims when they Photoshop nude photos, brag about rampant drug use or otherwise inaccurately depict the person they're pretending to be.

The Twitterverse is rife with such accounts, particularly among celebrities. Many states have laws banning online impersonation when it leads to some type of threat, intimidation or defraud attempt. But, what if you're pretending to be "George Clooney" and just spouting off "harmless" jokes? That can still land you in hot water for other crimes, such as trademark violation, false advertising, fraud or misrepresentation [source: Lu]. That's one reason Twitter puts a blue verified badge next to accounts of celebrities it has authenticated. The blue badge lets the user know whether she's following George Clooney or "George Clooney."