Facebook fakes threaten biotech reputations

What do scientists and charities have in common? Brand value, and the need to protect it.

Biotech and pharmaceutical executives-including Vertex Pharmaceuticals chief executive Joshua Boger and a chief science officer at Pfizer--as well as scientists and science journalists--have been "impersonated" on Facebook recently, with pranksters (or worse) creating fake online identities. Nature reporter Lucas Laursen found that many of those faked belong to the biotech industry, the embryonic stem cell research discipline in particular.

Victim Matthew Herper, a science editor for Forbes magazine, has described his experience in the article, "I Was impersonated On Facebook."

It's not just the scientific community that's under attack. Charities with brand recognition and brand value are defending against off-shore and homeland copycats trying to steal their good names.

Scientists and biotech executives who are victims of such digital fakery are justified as seeing the act as identity theft, regardless of intent or outcome. They might benefit from the model set by Tim Finnigan, owner of Charity Development, a consultancy to charities that seek car donations as contributions (which have recently been targeted by copycats): Pursue all identity thieves. You are protecting your brand value.

"A charity's willingness to pursue brand theft legally, to take thieves to court and sue for damages, often surprises the thieves," says Finnigan, in an announcement. They are also surprised that they are caught so easily, he says; much of the theft is done over the Internet, and larger charities discover the ripoffs through their IT departments.

- access the Nature article (sub. req.)
- read the Herper article
- here's the Charity Development release

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