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Social media stole my daughter's identity

News.Com.Au
Wednesday, January 09, 2013

TERRI Johnson got the shock of her life when she found a picture of her nine-year-old daughter Katie had gone viral.

A 'cyber impersonator' took the photo without permission, renamed Katie as 'Mallory' and used it to get millions of Facebook 'likes'.

You may have seen the photo of a smiling girl with Down syndrome, and the caption: "This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn't think she's beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful".

As news.com.au revealed yesterday, many of these posts are cynical ploys to get Facebook 'likes' for businesses, or even to sell for cash.

Ms Johnson, a US mother of five who blogs about healthy living, said she was "in shock" and found it "sad and infuriating" when someone emailed her about 'Mallory' and she discovered people were exploiting children with special needs online.

"It was really strange. I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a very sweet lady who said ... horrible things were being said about my daughter Mallory. I was really confused because I don't have a daughter called Mallory.

"I thought it must have been a mistake.

"Then a week later I got another email from a guy who said the same thing - I got on (to Facebook) and saw at that time there were 3.5 million 'likes'. I was in shock. My husband (Jeff) and I talked about what we should do and contacted Facebook ... but we didn't get any response."

Eventually with the help of friends and family they posted their story every time they found another "Mallory" post and the original post disappeared a couple of days ago.

Ms Johnson said Katie - whom she describes as a shy but affectionate girl who loves princesses - was oblivious to the whole thing.

"She has no idea. We haven't tried to explain it to her at all, so it hasn't harmed her personally," she said, but added they now wanted to use their situation to educate people about "cyber impersonation".

"The fact that this happens all the time, and that people's reputations could be destroyed, is horrible," she said.

"I've hesitated (to do more about it) because it's my daughter's image out there, should I let it go?

"But as my husband and I have discussed, probably 5.5 million people have now seen her image and if there's something I can do to bring awareness to that corruption and criminal activity, taking advantage of special needs kids or burns victims, if they'll see the picture of my daughter and learn from it, how can I say no to that?"

She says now she wants to spread the word about what happened to her, to save other people from the same situation.





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