Thirteen year old boy victim of large-scale 'identity-hack'

1. How Freek lost his identity

Last year a thirteen year old Dutch boy named Freek created, assisted by his mother, a private Twitteraccount for friends and family. The profile-picture he used was, as are all profile-pictures, visible to the public. Bullies stole this picture and went about the internet, misusing it. They created fake-accounts on Facebook and Twitter, photo-shopping Freeks face – a boy with freckles and squinting eyes – into all sorts of insulting, sometimes offensive images and have 'Freek' play the leading part in videos on YouTube. Within a short period this caricature got ten thousands of fans all around the world. When these 'fans' found out Freeks real name they started harassing him with – often offensive, sometimes even threatening – messages and videos.

This so-called identity hack has huge consequences for Freek. Because his identity was stolen and misused it is impossible for him to build up an online life. Meanwhile Google has linked Freeks real name to his unwanted alter ego. Any attempt to create an account under his own name on social media would result in this herd of 'fans' harassing him once again. And what about new friends, future classmates and employers who might Google him and find these shocking images?      

2. You only get one chance to make a first impression

Our video, made by Wefilm for Stichting Mijn Kind Online (My Child Online Foundation), shows precisely what the consequences are of an identity hack. If future classmates search for Freek on the Internet, this is what they will find. The coarse words and images unsettle these kids a lot; is this Freek who's speaking? And is he serious or is it just a joke? Or has it been someone else all along? It doesn't matter in the end because they will have an image of Freek he didn't create himself. 

(This video has been made by Wefilm with the support of  and  Digibewust. )

3. What does Mijn Kind Online has to say?

Mijn Kind Online thinks big internetcompanies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should help children and their parents more to prevent this 'identity hacking'. People who file a complaint often get lost in the jungle of information and forms.

  • More user friendly and less complicated procedures
    • Clear presentation of information
    • Understandable language which fits the user
    • Stimulating texts instead of discouraging ones
  • Integral appreciation of the situation
    • be able to explain that the problem is bigger than the one photo you report
    • judge images separately as part of a larger problem
  • Developing technical obstacles for creating fake accounts   (for example:)
    • preventing deleted accounts of reappearing
    • preventing deleted images of being uploaded again
  • International cooperation
    • within the industry (deleting fake-accounts and images)
    • of industry with the police and the law (prosecute punishable facts)
  • Involvement of the government
    • protection of childrensright
    • policy on dealing with 'identity hacking'
    • international agreements on the matter

4. The file

1. Reconstruction
How it has been possible that one stolen profilepicture can lead to a worldwide bullying campaign?
- Read the story of Freek

2. The victim
Linda, Freeks mother, what the internet abuse of her sons image has done and still is doing to her.
-  Read the story of Linda, the victims mother

3. The expert
Project leader Solange Jacobsen of the Mijn Kind Online foundation tells about the paths she has walked to help Freeks parents.
-  Read the story of Solange

4. The police
Digital, local police officer Boudewijn Mayeur tells what the police can and must do if one is reporting a case of 'identity hacking'.
-  Read the story of Boudewijn

5. The legal specialist
Professor in Law and the information-society Simone van der Hof tells about the possibilities the law offers the victims to get redress.
- Read the story of Simone van der Hof

6. Complexity of the reporting-procedures
-  Where do you run into at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? (pdf)

7. What to do if this is happening to you (or your child)?
As soon as you notice that someone is misusing your pictures, name or other personal information it is of the utmost importance to end it as soon as possible. The more it spreads the harder it gets to remove everything.
- Read about the steps you should follow.