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Whether Creating a Fake Facebook Account is a Punishable Offence?

Fake profiles are a common sight to come across on social networking websites. Facebook is one of the biggest platforms to come across a fake account. A fake account is an online profile made by someone trying to impersonate another person. These accounts are often made with the purpose of harassing other people, for spreading spam as well as viruses to steal private data, and the most common purpose is to take revenge on other people and uploading malicious photos. With the country becoming more equipped with the services of the internet the cases of fake profiles are piling up at an increasing rate. With the alarming increase in fake accounts, the real question stands:

whether creating a fake Facebook account is a punishable offence? In India, there are various remedies available by the law for the inconvenience caused by these fake accounts.

It is necessary to first distinguish whether the fake account was made up of a person who exists in reality or it was a random fake account in order to hold a person liable for punishment. Section 66D of the Information Technology Act of 2000[1] states that a person will be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term extending to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees if they cheat by personating through the means of any communication device like a computer. To hold the person responsible one of the most important ingredient is that the person must cheat or the person who created the fake account must gain a pecuniary benefit from it.

Under Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, a person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description that may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine if they commit the offence of forgery intending that the document or electronic record forged were used for the purpose of cheating.

Under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000, any material which appeals to be of prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it or any lascivious material is published or transmitted or caused to be published or transmitted by a person, such person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees on the first conviction, and in case of a second or subsequent conviction will be subjected to imprisonment of either description extending a term of five years and with a fine that can extend to ten lakh rupees.