Earlier today, a judge in New Jersey declined to dismiss a case against a defendant charged with creating a fake Facebook page of her ex-boyfriend that appeared to defame him. This ruling may open up a Pandora's box and create more problems than anticipated.
While the Morris County New Jersey prosecutor's office may believe New Jersey's identity theft law should govern fake social media profiles that appear to defame others I am not sure if they fully understand the ramifications of its position. There are tens of thousands of fake social media pages on social media platforms. Therefore, will everyone who is under New Jersey's jurisdiction who has created a fake social media page be prosecuted for identity theft under New Jersey law?
I told the Associated Press that this case sounds like it may be better handled in civil rather than criminal court. It appears that there may be a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. This is a novel interpretation of New Jersey's identity theft law and it may be difficult for the defendant to be ultimately adjudicated guilty. California has specifically addressed this issue through legislation along with New York and Mississippi. It is likely that other states may soon follow suit.
To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.
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