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I am a programmer and have a job offer to create a script that will automate the creation of a Bot Farm. So my boss wants me to develop a program to mass-create Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts.

The accounts have to pull the images to use as profiles. I guess those images belong to real people and will be used without their agreement.

I wonder if it is legal to create such bot accounts in Facebook/Twitter/Instagram? Is it possible that I could face legal repercussions as a developer of this program? Or is I merely write the program but don't run it can I be held responsible for its misuse?

  • Both you and the company you would be working for are located in Russia? It's important to specify, if you want to know if something is legal or not… (obviously!!!!!!) – o0'. Aug 4 '15 at 17:20
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    That being said, unless you are writing using a pseudonym, you'd better turn down this job. This may or may not be legal where you live, but you most certainly shouldn't want your real name associated to such a thing! – o0'. Aug 4 '15 at 17:21
  • Not a legal answer to the question but more towards the issue of using real images.. Just use AI/ML generated faces and you remove that tiny legal problem amongst all the other ones you will run into. – Digital fire Nov 6 at 16:16
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You have several issues.

Breach of Contract

When you sign up with each of those services you are entering a legally binding contract and must comply with the terms of that contract.

For example, this is taken from Facebook's terms:

Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal account.

I haven't checked but its a fair bet that the other services have similar terms.

Unless you have permission, what you are doing breaches these terms of service. If what you do causes damage to Facebook et al then they can sue you and your employer for damages. Even if it doesn't they can probably bar you from having an account for as long as they like.

Improper use of images

This is jurisdictional but it is generally required to have the permission of the subject of a photograph where that photograph is used for commercial gain. There are exceptions where the person is not the primary subject (e.g. crowd shots, or images primarily of something else where the person happens to be in the shot) but the type of photos you would use for these services are not going to be exempt. The sanctions for breaching this will be dependent on jurisdiction.

Breach of Copyright

Somebody owns the copyright in those photographs. If you do not have a licence to use them in the way you propose then you are breaching their copyright. The copyright holder can sue for damages (if any) and any profits you make.

Vicarious Liability

An employer is strictly liable for the actions of their employees, jointly and severally with the employee. That means a plaintiff can go after either the employer, the employee or both. An employee may have some statutory or contractual indemnity but this is by no means common.

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    It doesn't answer the main question which was: Is it possible that I will get problems with the Law as a developer of this program. That means that he won't do all the prohibited stuff, he will just create a program for it. It's like shooting with a gun vs designing a gun. – Ruslan Aug 4 '15 at 12:51
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    @Ruslan It is not analogous to designing a gun, the better analogy is fulfilling the request "Make me a gun so I can kill X" - that would definitely get you an accessory to murder charge if not conspiracy. – Dale M Aug 5 '15 at 1:39
  • I like your explanation in the comment above and I think it should be present in the answer along with the law details instead of what is in the answer now. – Ruslan Aug 5 '15 at 16:24
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Dude. There are so many legal projects that need coding talent, you will want to pass on this one.

Yes, someone doing the job you describe would probably be breaking at least one law. I'm not a lawyer so I can't cite you chapter and verse. But trust me here and take a pass.

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Dale M wrote a very good answer about the legal implications. And I agree with Mowzer that you should consider not doing it.

Creating bots is ok but bot farms are most likely a breach of contract between you as the developer and Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. For Twitter in particular the contract includes the Developer Agreement and Policy, the Automation Rules and the Twitter Rules.

In practice you would have a hard time to create a bot farm for Twitter anyway. First because their developer website requires you to solve Captchas which can hardly be automated and secondly because Twitter has advanced detection algorithms to close down accounts that are behaving against the terms. Spam bots are a huge issue for Twitter and thus they have advanced defenses in place.

By the way, Facebook and Instagram both have an app review process like Apple has for iPhone apps. You certainly won't make it through the review for these platforms. So you would need to run your bot farm as test apps that in case of both platforms have drastically limited capabilities.

I hope I could give you additional reasons on top of the legal implications to not do the job.

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