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Amartya versus Amartya on Facebook

india Updated: Aug 12, 2010 00:57 IST
Damini Purkayastha
Damini Purkayastha
Hindustan Times
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Amartya Sen has 490 friends on Facebook — including a physiology professor from Kolkata and a graduate from Oxford. He is a fan of Pakistani poet Josh Malihabadi, and, curiously, supports free-market libertarian Ludwig von Mises. The only problem is, this is not 76-year-old Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

He may seem least likely to have a Facebook impostor but Sen is a victim of identity theft on the social networking website. Not only has his identity been stolen, the impostor is contradicting Sen’s political views.

Sen was alerted to this by a hotel concierge in Italy. While checking into his hotel in San Felice Circeo, Italy, Luca, a registration clerk, informed Sen that he had been following him on Facebook. He said he was excited that Sen had decided to join the website despite having said the previous year that he had no intention of doing so.

Luca added that he was surprised by how much Sen’s views seemed to have changed. The impostor favours a pure market economy, no state intervention and even suggested Henry Hazlitt’s 1946 Economics in One Lesson as “a great introduction to the subject”.

Sen, in an email to HT, says he was “absolutely shocked” by what he saw. “I had no clue what he could be talking about, but there I was in what pretended to be a Facebook site run by me, with a picture of mine (real) and date of birth (real), replying to others with easy abandon — telling them what to read and what to avoid, corresponding in first person,” he says.

What bothered the economist most is that the imposter is propagating views completely contradictory to his own. “They are way to the right of any position I hold or have ever held. It reveals a programme that the fraud-master seems keen on promoting, though that might not be the only reason for his having fun from this engaging project. The problem is not just the uncompromisingly right wing nature of the answers, but also the fact that an unhesitating commitment to be guided only by politics - in any direction - and not by open-minded reasoning goes against everything I have always stood for.”

Sen immediately complained to Facebook, but says they have not responded.

“Whoever arranged the fraud has blocked the complaint channel… like Ulysses in Odyssey, I was comprehensibly imprisoned by this Facebook run by liars. My assistant in Harvard is right now battling the Facebook system to get to the ‘managers’.”

He has had no success yet.

HT’s attempts to contact the fake Mr Sen received no reply. Identity theft on Facebook is nothing new for celebrities. Actress Kristen Stewart, singer Peter Andre, Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and actresses Shazahn Padamsee and Malaika Arora Khan are among those who have had to report complaints against imposters. At the time of going to press, an official statement from Facebook on the matter was awaited.