Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fakery on Facebook

Recently, the New York Times released an article about a hospital in North Carolina that became a victim of a pseudo Facebook Page. In October, a ‘fake’ page popped up and discussed the negative effects of “Obamacare”. The page quickly gained hundreds of followers, and the anti-Obama campaign picked up immeasurable number ‘likes’. Officials at the hospital attempted to take control of the situation, but as quickly as the page appeared, it disappeared. The article goes on to discuss fakery all over the internet, including Facebook.

Gaston Memorial’s experience is a lesson in the problem of fakery on Facebook. As the world’s largest social network, it is an acute problem, because it calls into question the very basis of the site. Facebook has sought to be viewed as the community where people use their real identities. The appearance of fraudulent accounts makes Facebook’s mission impossible and could cause users to question Facebook’s reliability.

Facebook says they are taking the problem very seriously and have recently stepped up their efforts to terminate ‘fake’ and fraudulent accounts. However, the problem has become almost impossible to manage. Hundreds of these fraudulent sites can pop up simultaneously and some even contain malware and other viruses. Additionally, ‘fake’ coupons form meals and other items are appearing on Facebook news feeds, aimed at tricking individuals into revealing their personal information.

Facebook says they first noticed an increase in the creation of fraudulent sites when pages were beginning to decrease in the monthly amount of likes. Additionally, the election season seems to have increased with this reported activity.

One public relations implication of the rise of fraudulent Facebook accounts is the declining opinion of the public. Fraudulent ‘likes’ damage the trust of advertisers, who want clicks from real people they can sell to and whom Facebook now relies on to make money. 'Fakery' also lowers the credibility of Facebook itself.  If users no longer feel secure or believe Facebook is reliable, the site may see a decrease in users and a lowering of stock prices.

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