Someone is Impersonating Me Online

A threat faced by many activists, human rights defenders, NGOs, independent media, and bloggers is to be impersonated by adversaries that will create false profiles, websites, or emails in their names. This is meant sometimes to create smearing campaigns, misleading information, social engineering, or stealing one's identity in order to create noise, trust issues, and data breaches that impact the reputation of the individuals and collectives being impersonated. In other cases an adversary may impersonate someone's online identity for financial motivations such as raising funds, stealing payment credentials, receiving payments, etc.

This is a frustrating problem that can on different levels affect your capacity to communicate and inform. It can also have different causes depending on where and how you are being impersonated.

It is important to know that there are many ways to impersonate someone (fake profiles in social media, cloned websites, spoofed emails, non-consensual publication of personal images and videos). Strategies may range from submitting take-down notices, proving original ownership, claiming copyright of the original website or information, or warning your networks and personal contacts through public or confidential communications. Diagnosing the problem and finding possible solutions to impersonation can be complicated. Sometimes it will be close to impossible to push a small hosting company to take down a website, and legal action may become necessary. It is good practice to set up alerts and monitor the internet for finding out if you or your organization are being impersonated.

This section of the Digital First Aid Kit will walk you through some basic steps to diagnose potential ways of impersonating and potential mitigation strategies to remove accounts, websites and emails impersonating you or your organization.

If you are being impersonated, follow this questionnaire to identify the nature of your problem and find possible solutions.