September 24, 2018
Ever since the Cambridge Analytica case was brought to the public’s attention, it has become clearer that the internet troll accounts, that are troubling the lives of social media users, may not belong to actual people. Those accounts, instead, could be a part of much larger campaigns that Facebook call “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” set-up for a variety of ulterior motives.
Taking up the responsibility for creating a more harmonious and authentic place for billions of people from around the world to interact with each other, Facebook has started taking down the fake accounts from the platform with increased diligence. The first sign of the changed behaviour surfaced in late May 2018, when the company announced that it had taken down 583 million fake accounts from the platform, in the first quarter of 2018.
The announcement was made in the first-quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report that detailed how the company has taken the moderation action against the 837 million spam messages/posts, and 583 million fake Facebook accounts. This huge number doesn’t even include the other content that the platform has moderated including 2.5 million instances of hate speech, 1.9 million pieces of content with apparent terrorist propaganda, 3.4 million pieces with graphic violence, and over 21 million pieces of explicit content.
After this first announcement, the platform also publicised that it has further removed 652 fake Facebook accounts. In the accompanying post, the company stated that “We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US.”
Removing all these accounts and pages does come at a cost to the company’s business model, as in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has said, “Our singular objective as a company right now is to increase the health of public conversations, and we realise that will come at short-term cost. We realise that we will be removing accounts”. Though the spokesperson from Facebook, COO Sheryl Sandberg, didn’t bring light to this particular part in the committee, it was quite evident that removing a large number of accounts and pages costs Facebook as much, if not more.
Other than the indirect loss at the removal of such accounts and pages, because these accounts often accumulate more traffic than the genuine ones, the company is also held responsible for human rights for the people who are responsible for testing the flagged content on the platform. As two former employees of Microsoft have stated whilst suing the company that the job is depressing and can cause ‘permanent psychological trauma, including social anxiety, insomnia, depression, dissociation and hallucinations’
In such a scenario, the companies are investing in Artificially Intelligent detection software can simplify the task of content moderation, even before they are flagged by the users.
Addressing the topic, Sheryl Sandberg has said, “The threat we face is not new.” she added, “What is new are the tactics they use. That means it’s going to take everyone — including industry, governments, and experts from civil society — working together to stay ahead.”
So if you are willing to take the step to make your contribution in eradicating the social media platform from the expressions of the malicious ideas, and also protect yourself against spamming or phishing attacks from such fake accounts, here is what you can do.
Identify and report the fake accounts
Identifying fake accounts, though it can be quite an easy task, you do have to know what to look out for. It is understandable how people tend to get more relaxed when interacting on social media platforms, after all, it is often considered ‘the break time’ by most. However, it is the same lack of diligence that leads people to become targets to malicious attacks on social media.
So to make your experience on these platforms enjoyable whilst eliminating the danger, you can follow the suggestions of the experts that can help you identify the fake accounts with better results. You can always begin by only accepting the people you know personally to enter in your connections, for example only friend people you actually know on Facebook. Additionally, you can also verify if the person is genuine or not by testing their profile pictures. Though it is said that most fake accounts are created using the profile pictures of attractive girls, this is not always the case.
So the better way to identify an account’s veracity through their profile pictures is by testing those pictures using tools like ‘images.google.com’. To do this, you can simply save the image on your system and then check on the internet by using the aforementioned tool. Other than that, you can also detect a fake account by looking at the person’s timeline. Look out for the types of posts and the comments and likes from the friends of the person. You can also identify a fake account by looking at their ‘activity’ on the platform. Often fake accounts have long lists of friends, with almost no participation on genuine pages and groups.
Following some smart practices, it would not be very difficult to detect fake accounts and once you have identified one such account, don’t just stop yourself by simply avoiding interaction with that account. Instead, take the responsibility and report it to the platform. After all, the fight against such fake accounts, trolls, and malicious content is not only the platform’s issue, it is all part of the fight for a better social ecosystem, therefore it’s a fight for everyone.
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