Many counterfeits have shown up after Mars Orbiter mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s popular Facebook page that kept its nearly three lakh followers in thrall during the ongoing Mars Orbiter mission now faces numerous counterfeits.

Cautioning its followers against fraudulent Facebook and Twitter accounts, the ISRO has said its legal team is looking into issues of impersonation and copyright violation on social media.

The space agency will take legal action against the people behind the fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, which have sprung up in the wake of the mission, if they do not stop their activities, an official statement has warned.

The pages use the names of ISRO, its full form, Mangalyaan1, and Bhuvan (its Earth imagery service product), among others. The fraud was apparently exposed by its followers.

The FB update page thanked those who uncovered the fraud and said, “Yes, we are preparing to expand our social media presence to provide you all authentic and firsthand updates about all projects of the ISRO; and it’s going to be bigger and better.”

The FB page, ISROs Mars Orbiter Mission (facebook.com/isromom), was created on October 22, ahead of the November 5 launch of the Mars spacecraft from Sriharikota. It was an attempt to provide authentic and nearly real-time updates on the mission.

Since then, a team has relentlessly loaded information and fielded queries from scores of information-hungry netizens. It even fed information and science education about critical operations in space almost by the minute. ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan proudly described it as part of the agency’s public outreach.

The attempt will be a long haul as the Mars-bound spacecraft, currently over 30 lakh km from Earth, is slated to reach the Red Planet in September 2014 and orbit it for at least another six months.

But one particular FB page was lifting material from the official site and posting it as late as Tuesday midday, hours after the warning came. “The damage they are causing is difficult to quantify. They cause a lot of confusion among people who are following us. We are watching and have not warned them directly,” an ISRO spokesman said.

Listing five of those prominent offender pages, the ISRO cautioned its followers: “It is observed that a number of pages in the social media (Facebook and Twitter) are floated in the name of ISRO/ Department of Space/Mangalyaan, etc., which have no authenticity. The ISRO does not take responsibility for any content hosted on these pages.

“Such impersonation of the organisation is construed to be a serious offence and stern legal action against these pages/administrators of these pages is being initiated from the ISRO/Department of Space to bring them to immediate closure.”

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