Imagine my surprise this weekend when I received an email and Facebook message from an Internet friend, Amy Akins, telling (and showing) me how someone on Facebook was using my face. Creepy, to be sure. But things could be much worse. She (or he or it, as this could well be a bot account) could be using my name. Could be trying to pretend to be me in more than just image.
At least all these people thought it was a great photo. You know, if they’re real. Still, this is the photo I’ve used for my social media profiles since late 2010. My friend noticed it because it’s pretty immediately recognizable as me. Not cool. So I reported the profile of Melissa Dugan as impersonation to Facebook. I told a group of friends, many of whom also reported it to Facebook.
I got on with my life, checked in now and again to see if anything had happened yet, and spent time with my family. Sunday morning, I checked in again. The profile was still up. No change. I posted an update on my Facebook profile, including the screenshot above, and asked folks to report the profile for impersonation, if they were willing. Dozens did, and for that I’m quite grateful.
By day’s end, however, still nothing had happened. At this point, several of my more intrepid friends had sent friend requests to Melissa Dugan to see what they could find out from the inside, if you will. She accepted several requests and my friends started investigating.
Yes, those are all photos of me. The first and fourth are stills from videos I posted on my profile at some point or another. The second and third were/are profile pictures of mine.
Many other photos from her profile were along the lines of this:
That was one of the tamer ones.
Then, I did the Graph Search (somehow, I forgot to screenshot it; ah, well). I couldn’t dig up much, as Dugan’s privacy permissions must have been pretty tight, but almost all the photos she had commented on were from Subway (the sandwich shop). Nothing against Subway, but I have never once commented on their page. OK, it might have something to do with the fact that I prefer Blimpie’s.
The only other photo she’d commented on publicly was one that included a yellow duckling calling black ducklings the N word. Classy. I believe her comment was “lmao.”
That’s when I started to get really pissed off.
We are, to a degree, our avatars. When I’m on Twitter, I rely on my friends not changing their photos and catching their faces (or cats or drawings or whatever) as they fly by. On Facebook, a quick glance at comments tells me who’s there when I might not have time to sit and read everything; I still know who’s around.
Look, you can say pretty much anything you want in this country. That’s why the United States is pretty freakin’ great, despite all its faults. And you’re entitled to *think* whatever you want. Be racist. Declare your love for weaponry of all kinds. Eat at Subway. Go for it! You’re not affecting me.
But you are affecting me when you use my face.
Right now, I can’t see Melissa Dugan’s profile on Facebook. The link is dead. But all my friends – those accepted as mutuals and not – still can. I do find it rather … bemusing … that a social media platform doesn’t really have staff on weekends to deal with things like this. What if the person had been using my name? What if the person had been wreaking havoc? Would I still have to have waited until Monday? That’s sure what it felt like.
It’s a pretty cut-and-dried case. I’ve had this photo for years, and lots of people have met me and can confirm it’s me. In fact, it was shot by a professional photographer at the Social Media Club booth at the BlogWorld Expo held at the Mandalay Bay in 2010. So it’s pretty easy to determine it’s me. This fake profile only appeared last summer.
Does this person know me? Is it a pointed “attack” on me? I tend not to think so, as this person made no attempt to make herself known to me. Hasn’t used my name.
But she’s used my face, and it’s the only one I’ve got.
UPDATE, 5:18 p.m. EST, Jan. 28: Facebook removed my photos from her profile! Thank you all so much for your support.
This was the note Facebook sent me:
Thank you for your report. The timeline you reported violates our community standard on identity and privacy, so we removed it. We let Melissa Dugan know that his timeline has been removed, but not who reported it (Facebook never discloses who submits a report).
Note “his timeline”. I wonder if that’s a function of the automated message from Facebook, or an indication of who created the account.