Facebook v. Fakebook

Ever heard the term “Fakebook”?

 This is a new nickname given to the most popular social media site in the world, Facebook. 

Over 40% of Facebook profiles are actually fake, according to an article from PC1News.com.  Recently, I personally was a victim of cyber crime and fake profiling on Facebook.  I received an anonymous message from a blank profile explaining that someone had made a fake profile using all my information.  I checked it out, and sure enough, not only was my name everywhere, including my DOB, hometown, interests, work information, etc., on the profile, but so were more than 200 of my personal pictures.  This definitely gave me the chills and I felt extremely invaded (and yes, my profile was set to private.)

So why would someone have the motivation and incentive to make these imitation profiles? It comes off as malicious and personal, when in reality the majority of the time it has a lot to do with spammers and “virus writers.”

Often, when a fraudulent profile is created, the intention is for people to believe that the person is someone they know, so they would obviously click on various links to access that specific profile.  When Facebook users do this, though, it connects them to dangerous websites that can steal personal account information. 

There is another side though that is uncomforting.  It is common for some fake profiles to be made to imitate people and essentially discredit his/her reputation.  For instance, a TechDirt article reported that it has become a popular trend for students to make imitation profiles pretending to be teachers or administrators at their schools or universities, adding many unflattering pictures and false information to the imposter profiles. 

These mock profiles have stirred up a number of problems.  Some of the teachers who were victims of simulated profiling have gone to extreme lengths, even suing the students for involved for defamation of character.  There have been an increasing number of lawsuits in regards to fake profiling.  A mother and her teenage son sued four minors for setting up a fraudulent profile that imitated the young boy which included racist and sexual statements.  The profile forced the plaintiffs to change clubs and coaches within their school system.  The victim claimed he became alienated from his own friends at school (click here to read the full Digg article). 

If you are a victim of fake profiling, Facebook assures that they will take care of the problem as soon as they can.  In my personal experience, I reported the fake profile, filled out an application with the specifics of the incident and linked the fake profile to the Facebook privacy team.  Within 48 hours, the imitiation profile was deleted.

This new trend is alarming and uncomforting.  Do you believe this is an invasion of privacy and to what extent?

Or, are you on the other end of the spectrum, agreeing with a New York Times article that refers to Facebook as a “circus ring” and a form of “escapism” that shouldn’t even be taken seriously?

Do you think it is fair to sue over an incident like fake Facebook profiling? If so, under what circumstances? (if it includes racist/sexual statements about you, caused great harm to your reputation, etc.)

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8 Responses to Facebook v. Fakebook

  1. a_hundza says:

    Wow, I knew there were fake profiles on Facebook but I had no idea the number was so high!

    I think my opinion would be somewhere in the middle. I do think that Facebook is taken way to seriously these days (along with other social media outlets), but I would see it as an invasion of privacy if someone took my information and used it to their benefit and/or to discredit me.

    As time goes on and so many people continue to treat Facebook, Twitter and anything of the sort like a “circus ring”, I see the sites become less sought after for these types of advertising/marketing/PR tactics. In my opinion, eventually it will become such a mess that no one will take it seriously any longer and businesses won’t either. Or, it will find a niche and be primarily for that group sort of how Myspace is now with music.

  2. dolson says:

    I feel like I am stuck somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, Facebook is infotainment. We use it to interact with friends and share photos or gossip or recipes or whatever. We don’t include our social security numbers or credit card numbers in our profiles.

    On the other hand, there is a certain level of trust involved. When I accept a friend request, I believe that the other person has a sincere desire to know me. I expect there is a human being on the other end who wants to share information and experiences. Finding out your new friend is a spammer or bot is an upsetting realization.

    But hey, buyer beware. I always feel suspicious when I receive a friend request from someone I do not know. I accepted a request once on a lark and, of course, the profile was a fake and right away the person sent me invites to parties and club events. And just last week I started receiving more requests from strangers, or rather one lazy spammer: the profiles all had one random photo of a young woman (and no other photos, or Wall posts), and each profile’s info, aside from the bogus name, was all the same. I reported each profile as a fake to Facebook.

    As for a bogus profile being grounds for a lawsuit: yes, absolutely. There is a malicious intent and the information posted is false and harmful and the person putting it up knows this. Sue them for all you can get.

    • kwashburn says:

      It is comforting to know that you and hopefully others actually report fake profiles like those you mentioned. I’m sure a lot, if not the majority, of Facebook users just delete these profiles from their friend list and move on. I’m glad you take the time to take charge of the issue.

      As you mentioned, a lot of fake profiles are used as promotional tools. Promoters for clubs, events, companies and campaigns will use fake profiling as an approach to reach people. This is unfortunate because they are taking advantage of some people who are less aware of the risks of social media and are sending loads of spam to their inbox.

  3. acarlin says:

    That is really scary information, especially because we are entering the job market and employers do look on Facebook. I definitely think Facebook should be taken seriously. Maybe if this story broke when Facebook first came out, it wouldn’t have been as serious. But today, Facebook is used by almost everyone. I have been recently getting random friend requests from people I don’t know who have no friends in common with me. I always ignore these requests and mark that I don’t know the person.

    If someone makes a fake profile for you, that is definitely cause for a lawsuit. That is a classic example of malicious intent and the profile could cause serious damage to your reputation and name.

    • kwashburn says:

      I definitely agree with you. After being an actual victim of a fake profile, it has definitely effected my views on the seriousness of social media. Of course Facebook is a way to socialize with peers and some people have different motives than others. This doesn’t mean though, that making a impersonating profile is not a big deal. I consider this a subcategory of identity theft. Seeing my personal pictures of my family, dog, home, etc was mortifying and I don’t think it should be taken lightly.

      I think it is a very smart move for you to ignore friend requests if you don’t recognize the name or profile picture. It isn’t worth an increase in the number of your friends on facebook to possibly be taken advantage of and be a victim of abusing the social networking system.

  4. kmcnally says:

    Wow, i had no idea that this was happening. I have been worried of it happening, but i had no idea that it was actually happening to people. I have all of my settings set to private to the point where people can’t search me. And to think that yours was set to private, and it still happened, to think what kind of privacy does facebook really have, if you have it set to private and something like this still happens. I think that it is reasonable to sue for fake profiling. because if someone puts up racial slurs or comments, or says something to damage your self image, i don’t think that is fair, and i don’t think that is what anyone signed up for when they signed up for facebook. I use facebook as a communication tool to talk with friends from back home and family that are across the nation, and to think that people are ruining that connection is ridiculous, i don’t think its fair, and i think that those that are doing it should be punished.

  5. lwallace says:

    Wow, I had heard this was happening, but I had no idea that it was really this serious of an issue. Are the privacy settings on Facebook not strong enough to keep the imitation profiles from occuring? To think that over 40 percent of profiles on Facebook are fake is extremely scary and to be honest really discourages me from wanting to have a Facebook. I agree that suing for fake profiling is extremely reasonable and maybe will take a step in the right direction of a putting a stop to this. An imitation of someone’s Facebook can cause a lot of damage for a person’s image. I know that for me I use Facebook as a networking and communication network. Facebook enables me to stay in contact with my little sister and other family members back home, as well as high school friends, current college friends and classmates. In order for Facebook to protect it’s reputation and protect its users something must be done. I honestly do not know what must be done, but I do know that something must be.

  6. vlumpkin says:

    I think it’s really interesting that you talked about the legalities of posting “fakebook” profiles. I’m currently in Mass Communication Law and we just finished discussing libel suits. I wonder the success rates of lawsuits against people creating fake profiles and if the suits are considered libel suits, false light suits or some other category? I wonder if the pages could be defended as parodies in the same way Larry Flynt defended the Campari ads in Hustler Magazine in Hustler v. Falwell? It reminds me how quickly the journalism is changing, becoming uncontrollable and undefined. I would love to discuss this issue in my law class. Thanks for the inspiration!

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