There isn’t anyone on social media who hasn’t been contacted by a social media account who wants to be our friend, and once we look up who the person is, we find out it’s not a real person. They have fake pictures, just one or two posts to try and appear real, fake friends, etc.
And sometimes it’s an account that’s promoting a product or service or is promoting one particular political platform. And they can be just another form of fake news. They’re still spreading misinformation and confusion.
The entity coming under fire for the existence of these accounts is social media itself, not enforcing their own rules and just letting these accounts hang on. But what can we do so as not to be bothered by these impostor social media accounts?
It was realized that the impostor social media accounts were a problem after the 2016 presidential election in the United States. A grand jury indictment found that Russia was behind these fake news stories being published, trying to rig the election in Donald Trump’s favor.
Facebook has fallen under fire repeatedly for not doing enough to stop those fake accounts during the election year. And social media companies as a whole are thought to not do enough to stop the occurrence of fake accounts. And that has created the market for such accounts, the knowledge that they won’t be shut down. Fake followers are sold.
It almost seems backwards that Facebook and Twitter in particular require proof of identity to close an impostor account, but they don’t require that same proof to begin an account. They have created their own rules for it and the government doesn’t bother to oversee it or step in.
“These companies have, in a lot of ways, assigned themselves to be validators of your identity,” said Jillian York, an official with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization advocating for digital privacy protections.
“But the vast majority of users have no access to any due process, no access to any kind of customer service — and no means of appealing any kind of decision.”
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia believes enough isn’t being done by social media to stop these impostor accounts. “I think the companies themselves were slow to recognize this threat,” he said. “I think they’ve still got more work to do.”
Facebook has taken a lot of heat for this, and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, has said they nearly doubled the employees who review the content on their platform searching for fake news, abuse, and impersonation, But even they require accounts to use their real names.
Twitter doesn’t follow suit. Impostor accounts are only not allowed if they are portraying another user “in a misleading or deceptive manner,” and they do nothing to review accounts to search for that. However, they are somehow searching for and punishing companies that deploy “bots” to copy real accounts that are sold for those looking for more followers.
What Needs to Be Done
Some users find several duplicate accounts of their own account on Twitter, accounts that use their picture, name and bio. And they have no real protections for this. It should be seen as identity theft, but it’s simply not policed in that way.
In the “real world” if our name and history is stolen by either an individual or business, it’s a crime. Why is that not so in the cyber world? Why can this happen so easily on social media? Both are profitable businesses.
And while there is so much furor out there about fake news being published in news media, there is not the same uproar against the impostor social media accounts that do the same, provide fake news.
What are your thoughts on these impostor social media accounts? Does it bother you to read information on social media that you know was cultivated and isn’t real? Do fake accounts try to friend you? Have you ever had your identity stolen on social media?
Jump into our comments below and let us know your thoughts and experiences about this.