The fake ‘City of Crossville Codes Enforcement’ page officially announcing the coming of grocery chain Aldi caused quite a stir Wednesday night. Now it appears the person who created that page could face criminal charges. It all started out when the fake page was being shared by hundreds of Facebook users Wednesday night. The fake page was created only the day before. In no time at all over 500 users had shared the post announcing the official arrival of Aldi’s to Crossville and to be located at the former Ryan’s Restaurant property. CNF saw the post and became suspicious when we noticed the ‘City Of Crossville Codes Enforcement’ Facebook page had only been up for one day. We also didn’t understand why in the world would such an announcement come from the “Codes Enforcement” department instead of the Mayor’s office, Chamber of Commerce or Aldi’s Corporate office itself. Also, the Aldi post was made at 6:40 pm, long after business hours.
We quickly called Crossville Mayor James Mayberry and City Councilman J.H. Graham to see if it was indeed true about Aldi’s coming to Crossville and was the Facebook page real. Both said no. CNF immediately published a story letting readers know the announcement was not real nor was the Facebook page.
Today the City of Crossville is looking into what, if any, legal action the City can take for creating an ‘imitation governmental Facebook Page’ intended to mislead the readers. The general consensus is that even though it violates Facebook policy to create a fake page, are there any laws on the books that address creating a fake ‘government’ identity. The fake page creator used the official Crossville Seal on the page to give it a more authentic look – which may be illegal in and of itself.
What’s the Big deal
It’s one thing to create a fake ‘personal’ Facebook page but to claim the identity of a government agency may be another story. In this case, no harm was done by the fake ‘Aldi Coming to Crossville’ post. The creator of the fake page posted a long diatribe on how gullible people are who don’t check sources of news before believing everything they read. The fake page listed itself as ‘satirical’ in the “About” section of the page but not on the page itself which would have visible to everyone. The page was taken down soon after it was exposed as fake. It’s not clear if the creator of the page removed it or Facebook took it down.
At issue is the question of what if the creator had made a fake ‘Police, Sheriff or Emergency management page and posted something disastrous was about to happen locally. That could set off a panic in the community which could get lots of people hurt. No one would pay much attention to a ‘John Doe’ type fake page that put forth some kind of information about a new grocery chain coming to town. But the creator knew people would take notice if the fake announcement came from a governmental agency. Lawyers are researching today what laws are in place for impersonating a governmental agency, identity theft and other laws which could apply. City officials are also working to identify the creator of the fake page which may include the help of Facebook Corporate.