Facebook Photo Theft: Mother Of Disabled Children Starts Online Petition To Stop User Impersonation, Gets 130K Supporters

A mother of two disabled children is apparently taking a stand against Facebook photo theft by starting an online petition.

Kansas resident Gwen Hartley used Change.org, a popular website for starting and supporting online petitions, to get the ball rolling earlier this year.

According to its title, the objective of the online petition is to “tell Facebook to stop the theft of photos and the impersonation of users.” Within her lengthy statement promoting the petition, Gwen claimed that she used Facebook to “find inspiration and strength and help others going through similar life experiences” as a mother of disabled children.

Facebook photo theft [Image via Change.org]However, that is apparently where the dark side of social media forced its way into the situation – namely, Facebook photo theft.

“There are those who decided to steal my pictures and say they were me in hopes of exploiting social media goodwill for their own gains. I am not alone and Facebook is doing little to stop it. People have stolen my photos, claim to be me, and call on people to like or comment on the post. One post garnered over a million likes. Some do this to gain followers who they then barrage with solicitations — others simply do it for the attention. Either way, it is the theft of our photos and impersonation, a clear violation of Facebook’s community standards.”

Hartley further explained that when she reports the alleged violations, Facebook claims that the posts in question do not violate community standards. On the other hand, the mother of two is reportedly asked to “jump through hoops.” In Gwen’s own words, though, “it shouldn’t be this easy to get away” with user impersonation within the popular social media platform.

Is your Facebook, LinkedIn account safe? https://t.co/n9z1grv1I4 #security #identity #theft #hacker #web #millennial #genx #boomers #nyc #ny

— Peter J Creedon CFP® (@PeterJCreedon) August 7, 2016

The mother also addresses the resources that Facebook has allowing them to confirm if a photograph originated with or belonged to a particular user. Therefore, in her opinion, she should not have to send a copy of her driver’s license along with other sensitive documentation “to get them to take action.”

“I’m asking Facebook to commit to tightening the enforcement of their policies around user impersonation, and to make it easier for families like mine to get fraudulent posts removed. It’s heartbreaking to see a post using your photo, claiming your daughters as their own, and saying they have Zika virus… There needs to be a change and it needs to happen now to protect our families and the precious children who fight daily to be here and inspire those around them.”

Gwen Hartley concluded her statement with a call-to-action, asking people to support the online petition to apparently help Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the social media platform’s staff members realize the importance of protecting their users from Facebook photo and online identity theft. As of Wednesday, the petition has generated over 131,000 supporters.

Frank Abagnale, Jr. – the con artist-turned-FBI security expert whose life inspired the movie Catch Me If You Can – once talked about the dangers of identity theft on Facebook. According to the Guardian, Abagnale was addressing the Advertising Week Europe conference in London.

frank abagnale jr. || catch me if you can pic.twitter.com/tYhBOqUzPw

— your fav character (@rtyourcharacter) August 7, 2016

According to Abagnale, telling Facebook your date of birth and where you were born places the average identity thief “98 percent” of the way from stealing your identity successfully. He advised social media users to never give that information on their personal profiles because doing so is essentially welcoming thieves to steal your identity. In addition to profile information, Abagnale further recommended refraining from using passport-style photos for profile pictures and revealing too much information in posted comments.

Even if Facebook does not implement any strategies to stop Facebook photo theft or user misrepresentation, these are still valuable steps that consumers can use to reduce their chances of becoming victims.

[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]