It seems since Digg has pretty much died, Facebook has become the main hub for right-wing spammers. As the election grows closer, these ‘FacePatriots’ are making a push to swing popular opinion to their point of view by leaving thousands of comments throughout facebook.
This morning I spotted this political pic in my stream. 5 out of the 8 first comments were from ‘fake accounts’. I explain below how to determine to a reasonable amount of certainty whether an account is fake. What does this mean? This means that one person can leave dozens of comments under different accounts. A propagandists dream scenario.
The reason this post mentions GOP Spam Accounts is because that is what I have found. If you discover the same tactic on the other side, leave a comment. Until proven otherwise, this appears to be a Republican phenomenon.
How does it work?
To open a Facebook account, you basically just need an email account. This means the number of accounts that one person could open is almost limitless. Only in extreme cases would Facebook look into the number of profiles associated with a single IP Address (your computer connection’s address).
Once you have opened a page, upload a few pictures, enter the minimum amount of information, set your privacy settings to show the minimum amount of information and now all you need are some friends. Friends are easy to get on Facebook. First, LIKE all of your own fake accounts – this will create your own little community. Then you can ‘purchase’ some additional friends. There are services on the web where you can add hundreds of friends for less than $20. These friends will be from the pool of fake profiles on Facebook. These ‘fake’ profiles will have connections to ‘real’ profiles too – some people friend people with common names. This opens the door to the rest of the world. The friends of friends is the place it becomes political.
Now you hunt. When you have identified an objectionable political pic or comment, you leave a comment. Then you log in with another account, and leave another comment. Repeat. You can even add a layer of reality to your comments by having conversations between accounts. The original poster will see posts from ‘friends of friends’, so everything looks normal.
How can you spot a fake?
Some of the telltale signs are:
- new account
- few friends
- their friends “LIKE” a lot of pages
- only one profile picture
- minimum amount of information in profile
- numerous comments in feed but no personal interaction with friends
In the example above, I was able to quickly identify the fake accounts because they didn’t take any steps to cover their tracks. All profiles had been created within the past month. They also were friends of each other, but more importantly, their mutual friends LIKED dozens of pages. It is possible to simply buy LIKES for business Fan Pages. These profiles are easy to spot because that will be their only activity – liking other pages.
Other profile are harder to spot. This is because they take some steps to shield their information (as in the graphic above). In these cases, it is harder to tell, but if they show so little information and they show up consistently - there is a good chance that it is a ‘FacePatriot”.
Facebook in the News for “Fake” Profiles
Facebook’s fake accounts problem has made the news in recent days.
83 million Facebook accounts are fakes and dupes (cnn.com – August 1, 2012)
So what are those 83 million undesired accounts doing? They’re a mixture of innocent and malicious, and Facebook has divvied them up into three categories: duplicate accounts, misclassified accounts and “undesirable” accounts.
Duplicate accounts make up 4.8% (45.8 million) of Facebook’s total active member tally. According to the network’s terms of service, users are not allowed to have more than one Facebook personal account or make accounts on behalf of other people.
Misclassified accounts are personal profiles that have been made for companies, groups or pets. Those types of profiles (22.9 million) are allowed on Facebook, but they need to be created as Pages. Facebook estimates that 2.4% of its active accounts are these non-human personal accounts.
The third group is the smallest — just 1.5% of all active accounts — but most troublesome. There are 14.3 million undesirable accounts that Facebook believes have been created specifically for purposes that violate the companies terms, like spamming.
Moral of the Story
If you don’t know the person making the comment – be aware that the comment could be from a comment spammer.
Be wise. When you see strings of comments from people that you do not know, take them with a grain of salt, because if there are on Facebook, there is a good chance that they are fake. The intent of this small number of digital propagandists is to give people an impression that a majority of people feel a certain way about a topic. One person can create a tremendous amount of buzz by using multiple accounts.