MySpace and the law

By Lissette Rodriguez, 15, Fairfax HS
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Just about everyone has a MySpace, from students to teachers and other adults. It is fairly easy to get a MySpace, which is like a personal Web page where you can put photos, artwork, information about yourself, or pretty much anything you want. There are even profiles for TV shows, bands, and "groups"—such as a group for everyone who attends a certain school.

I have a MySpace and have been a member since August 2004 when I heard about it from a friend. MySpace helped me keep in touch with people from my middle and even elementary schools, at a time when everyone was going their separate ways. I also met new people, some of whom are now my closest friends.

I never thought I would have a problem, until one day in October I received a "friend request" from myself! Once you add someone to your friends list, that person can read your blog, look at your pictures, leave comments on your page and search through your other friends. But how could I be my own "friend"? I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

I had to find out who it was. I denied the friend request, but viewed the person’s profile—it was exactly the same layout as mine, some of the information was exactly the same, but some was completely absurd and immature, using swear words and stuff I wouldn’t want to repeat. The person who made this other MySpace made me look very bad, and he/she had managed to add 20 of my friends and a few I had never met in my life. My friends thought it was me. This person had said my profile got messed up and I made a new one.

I decided to ignore the second MySpace and tell my friends that it wasn’t me. I was hoping that "the imposter" would get tired of this dumb game and give up, but then I found out this person was leaving my friends rude and obnoxious comments, swearing at them and calling them names! The imposter said ridiculous things that didn’t make sense, trying to put the other person down. I decided to e-mail this person asking him/her to stop. He/she replied with an insult and refused to reveal his/her identity. I don’t understand how someone gets so much joy from messing with other people’s lives. I also wrote to all my friends, apologizing for whatever had been said and explaining that it wasn’t me.

I decided to e-mail Tom, the MySpace editor, to tell him my problem. It was useless—he ignored my messages. I tried looking in the MySpace FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), but didn’t see anything about someone pretending to be you.

A girl thought I wanted to fight her

Then I got a message from the imposter, sending me a link to a MySpace profile where he or she had left a comment. As I read it I was speechless and filled with rage. The comment told some stranger that I wanted to fight her and to look for me in person and told them my grade, school and full name. Apparently there had been a confrontation going on that I wasn’t even aware of. I realized that the imposter was someone who knew me and that alarmed me. They couldn’t have gotten that information from anywhere on my page. I hadn’t done anything to anyone to deserve this kind of treatment so I was worried. I wrote to the person who was angry at the imposter and explained to her what had happened, so I was able to clear up any misunderstanding.

Who could it be? I started feeling like I couldn’t trust anyone. After a while I didn’t hear from the imposter. I decided to go to his/her page and see what he/she had been up to, because, as the saying goes "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." He/she had just added more people who coincidentally all went to the same school. No one could tell me who it was. Out of all this I ended up making new friends because I wrote to all the imposter’s friends explaining what had happened and that I was sorry for anything mean that the imposter might have said. Now I am good friends with a couple of people from the imposter’s page, but I still keep an eye out—who knows what people might do?

Finally I found a way to tell the MySpace administrators about the imposter’s profile and it was taken down. Now I don’t have to worry about some evil person leaving mean comments for my friends and making trouble. Getting the imposter’s profile removed was a tough process, but it was worth it. (If someone is impersonating you on MySpace, visit this Web page.)

I never thought this would happen to me, but it can happen to anyone. I still enjoy logging on and talking to friends on MySpace, but now that I know how easy it is to pretend to be someone else, I don’t trust everything I see on MySpace, and I know that a true friend is hard to find.