Victoria Lawyer Michael Mulligan on CFAX 1070 – Legally Speaking with Pamela McCall – discussing the legal implications of the Conservative Party of Canada purchasing fake likes on Facebook. Reg Sherren recently reported that his personal Facebook account had been used to like the Conservative Party of Canada without his consent. When the Liberals, Greens, and NDP were asked if they were purchasing fake Facebook likes they all confirmed that that they purchased advertising but didn’t buy likes. When the Conservative Party director of communications, Cory Hann, was asked his reply was “Thanks for reaching out to us. On this question, it’s an internal party matter.”
Fraudulent Facebook likes can be generated by companies that use malware imbedded in web pages to create a like for a Facebook page without the user’s knowledge or consent. If you click on a video, for example, this malware may create the unwanted Facebook endorsement.
In addition to the unethical nature of paying a company to generate apparent online endorsements from unwilling users, this conduct may constitute of criminal offence.
Section 342.1 (1) of the Criminal Code provides for the following:
342.1 (1) Unauthorized use of computer – Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years, or is guilt of an offence punishable on summary conviction who, fraudulently and without colour of right,
a) obtains, directly or indirectly, any computer service;
b) by means of an electro-mechanical, acoustic, mechanical or other device, intercepts or causes to be intercepted, directly or indirectly, any function of a computer system;…
In addition, a company that is using malware to generate fraudulent likes on Facebook may be in violation of section 8 of the recently introduced anti-spam legislation:
8. (1) A person must not, in the course of commercial activity, install or cause to be installed a computer program on any other person’s computer system or, having installed or caused to be installed a computer program, cause an electronic message to be sent from that computer system, unless (a) the person has obtained the express consent of the owner or an authorized user of the computer system and complies with subsection 11(5); or (b) the person is acting in accordance with a court order.
Unlike the Criminal Code section, the anti-spam legislation only applies to “commercial activity” so the Conservative Party of Canada may not be caught directly by it. They may, however, be counselling such an offence if they are knowingly hiring a company to cause people to like their Facebook page without their consent.
Given all of the foregoing, if you’re on Facebook, you may wish to check your activity log in your settings to see what pages you have liked.
Victoria Lawyer Michael Mulligan on Legally Speaking – Live on CFAX 1070 Thursday at 11:00am.