Preston based entrepreneur Jodie Rigby has joined forces with hair and make-up designer for a 2018 BAFTA winning film, Alexandra Jackson, to raise awareness of the dangers of fake social media accounts.

Alexandra, former Rock FM host ‘American Alex’ alongside Hywel and Jamie, has started a UK Government petition to make fake social media accounts illegal. Her friend Jodie first heard Alexandra’s experience of being abused by a woman hiding behind a myriad of fake profiles. Jodie then came across a fake profile impersonating Alexandra under the name ‘Alexandra Jack’. They jointly decided to take positive action, raise awareness and hopefully make a change to online safety.

After the rise of the TV show Catfish, in which Nev Schulman investigates online relationships and suspected fake profiles, people have become more aware of the dangers of the social media profiles that don’t need verification. This makes it easy for people to create fake personas with no link to their real name, and use it however they like. Pretending to be someone else is bad enough, but they can obviously be used for even darker reasons.

Alexandra learnt of the dark side of Facebook when she began receiving online abuse from multiple profiles. Some of these profiles had been active for 6 years, had professional profile pictures and a web of online friends, so Alexandra believed they were genuine people who, as a group, were abusing her online.

She’s not alone in this issue. TV personality and model, Katie Price has joined the movement to discuss the abuse and bullying her son receives online. She believes e-safety is one of the most important topics on the internet.

It’s estimated up to 270 million profiles on Facebook are duplicates or fake which makes it all the more sinister that you can be just 13 years old to have an account – with no verification needed.

Alexandra made a point that we are more connected online than in person these days, and that we depend on social media platforms and the police to keep us safe. This is why Alexander (and us at Podio Preston) was so shocked that using someone else’s face / photographs is not illegal; it doesn’t come under identity theft or fraud which makes it hard to prosecute against.

It became clear it was a friend of a friend behind the profiles. Alexandra had her suspicions immediately that one woman was behind the abuse, which she later proved to the police.

Alexandra believes there should be repercussions for using fake profiles because, in her opinion, these accounts are ‘never used for good’. It affects the lives of the people being deceived by the profiles, and also the people whose identity is being used – and their families.

The petition is the positive result that has come from the abuse Alexandra received and she does not believe in fighting fire with fire; she wants to put the fire out.

“The bigger the campaign” she says “the more likely we will be able to make a change. The petition is about regulating and verifying accounts rather than stopping people from using the platforms”

If you or anyone you know ever receives abuse from a fake account, Alexandra recommends the following; based on what she was told by anti-bullying groups:

  • Tell someone
  • Screenshot the messages but don’t open them because this can fuel the fire.

Although Alexandra has turned her ordeal into a positive campaign the person using these fake profiles has become more calculated and has hidden their IP address – and found ways to engage with her Facebook profile, despite all her settings being set strictly to private.

Jodie finished by saying, “Alex is a strong-minded and intelligent person but if this was done to someone younger or not as strong… this could have been a different story.”

We at Podio Preston love that Alexandra & Jodie have launched, and are pursuing, this petition. We urge anyone reading this to sign it (click here) so that our Government will discuss the issue in Parliament. Once you sign it, be sure to check your email to verify yourself. Alongside this, they’re adopting the hashtag #BeReal – feel free to check it out and use it in any posts you may share.

As a result of our meeting with these inspiring young ladies, we’ve put our heads together with our sister project, After Hate UK to establish a Facebook group. This group will enable anyone affected by the issues raised to share their stories and experiences and pass on advice.

Click here for the group and start a conversation today.

Here’s the link to the petition again, make sure to share, sign and verify by email.

Written by Izzy Evans