October 1, 2014 By Wallin & Klarich

Remember the days of asking a celebrity for an autograph? If you spotted a Hollywood actor or famous musician, you had to find anything they could sign. Those days are gone. Autographs have been replaced with photos, and every celebrity is asked to stop and take a selfie that will be posted online for the world to see.

However, altering digital photos is now easier than ever. While everyone is on a quest to post the most epic celebrity selfies, some will use deceptive measures to do so. Recently, a California attorney was called into question for photos posted on her law firm’s website that seemed to be doctored to give the appearance that she was pictured with famous clientele.

When Ultimate Selfies Turn Out to Be Ultimate Lies

Attorney Svitlana Sangary mingled with the likes of President Barack Obama, George Clooney, Kim Kardashian and Morgan Freeman … well, at least it would appear that way from the photos posted on her law firm’s website.
According to a recent 18-page opinion written by State Bar Court Judge Donald F. Miles, “many, and perhaps all” of the photos were altered by overlaying photos of Sangary over pre-existing images of the celebrities. However, this was not just another social media mistake made in good fun.

Sangary and her law firm were using the images to promote their services. Using doctored photos to advertise future work constitutes false advertising. Miles said the “deceptive” images were designed to “deceive and mislead the public.”

Lowering the State Bar

Although many social media users who post altered photos only do so as a joke, Sangary’s fake celebrity interactions were taken very seriously by the California State Bar. Investigators originally contacted her about the images in December 2012, but the photos were still posted on the firm’s website two years later.

Sangary also previously failed to return a client file and did not cooperate during two disciplinary investigations. Factoring in her previous issues and her failure to respond to the finding of her altered images, Miles recommended to the Supreme Court that Sangary be suspended for six months. A decision from the Supreme Court is pending.

Always Be Careful What You Post Online

You don’t have to be a lawyer to make mistakes when posting online. This incident illustrates how important it is to think twice before sharing something online, whether it is an altered image or an innocent comment.

There have been many recent instances in which persons were arrested for a crime because they admitted to it on social media or simply forgot to log off of Facebook. 1 Even if you are not involved in a criminal act, it is important to know that your online activity will never be erased. Keep in mind that your virtual footprint is public for the world to see forever, and your online activity can be used as evidence against you at any time.

Innocent Prank or Deceiving the Public?

Sangray’s actions were determined by a judge to be deceptive and confusing. Do you agree with the judge’s ruling? Were Sangray’s altered photos a simple joke or were the images meant to deceive perspective clients? Do you think she should be punished for her actions?

At Wallin & Klarich, we value your opinion. We want to hear from you. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

1. [https://www.wklaw.com/9-social-media-mistakes/ ]

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