Fun with Fake Facebook Friends

Posted December 17th, 2012 at 2:16 pm (UTC-4)
5 comments

Sometimes Facebook Friends Are Not As They Seem

Ross Slutsky | Atlanta GA

The other day I got a friend request from a man claiming to work at VOA in DC as a programmer. His pedigree was impressive, with claims to an Oxford education.  As a one-time VOA intern and current Digital Frontiers contributor, I friended him without any further hesitation, thinking he might be trying to open a dialogue with me about a work-related project. However, upon closer examination, I began to question the validity of his claims. One quick tip off came when he updated his cover photo to this:

Though a lovely photo, this picture of a choir has nothing to do with Voice of America.

Furthermore, when I scrolled down his wall, I found statuses like this:

And like these:

The Trap

I called in to VOA back in Washington DC, and they confirmed that there wasn’t anyone by the name on the profile employed by the agency. At this point, when I was ready to move on, I noticed that this mystery person was available on Facebook Chat.

This wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up.  And very quickly, this person confirmed my suspicions:

VOA has only five floors.

We went on like this for a little while, but one of my questions must have scared him off. Nonetheless, due to my innate sense of curiosity and/or utter lack of self-discipline, I wasn’t done trying to figure this guy out.

From the friends tab, I quickly learned that most of his “friends” claim to be from either Indonesia, India, or Pakistan. That said, my favorite one of his “friends” was a Nigerian dude who went by the name of “BlessedBestman” and had the following listed under his employment section, which includes one of my favorite places of employment of all time:

Just when I thought it was over and that things couldn’t possibly become any more bizarre, the person claiming to be a VOA programmer now added two new titles to his employment:

At this point, apart from feeling like an underachiever, I was puzzled. Why would someone pretend to work at VOA in the first place? Furthermore, why would this person pretend to work for two different news entities and add these job titles in such a short period?

The 8.7 Percent

This is far from an isolated occurrence. Back in August, Facebook reported that 8.7% of the profiles on their site were not real. While that doesn’t mean a little less than 10 percent of your Facebook friends are phonies, it is a good reminder that when you meet people only in cyber-space, it can be difficult to really know who you’re meeting.

But the question remains. Why would someone do this?

Is this person a spammer who simply hasn’t started spamming me yet? A bizarre PR professional trying to get in touch with VOA personnel by using me as a mutual friend? A fan trying to be closer to VOA by digital affiliation? Or is there some other cultural difference that’s being expressed here?

What do you think?

Special thanks to Bruna Ladeira for her help in verifying personnel in the VOA system.

5 Responses to “Fun with Fake Facebook Friends”

  1. Bruna says:

    You’re welcome, Ross!

  2. Derek Jackson says:

    This person could be a crook wanting access to your Facebook site so he can clone it. Once complete he can use his clone site to send friend requests to all your friends. Now consider this crook has not only has not only cloned your facebook, he is part of an organisation which had cloned so far 10 000 Facebook pages each with 250 friends. The organisation is run by 5 guys who have each duplicated or cloned 2000 Facebook profiles. This organisation now has a audience of 2.5 million Facebook users and it can convey to them a message they believe is coming from a trusted source, their facebook friend.

    Now the organisation could be Gold bugs and could be about to launch a directed campaign telling their Facebook friends the price of Gold is going up up up.

    The organisation could also be a hostile foreign entity determined to damage and undermine American Family life by a coordinated campaign of humiliating posts designed to pit friend against friend.

    Or the Organisation of 5 could be a solitary guy in his mid 40′s who has nothing better to do than friend hot chicks on Facebook in the hope of eventually gaining a decent conversation.

  3. Mike Adams says:

    @ Dereck…

    Are you conjuring up your scenario from fantasy or expetience?

    If experience I would really like to ask you some business related questions.

    Thank you!

    Ross,

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    Mike

  4. Tee says:

    From a psychological perspective its likely that the person involved was trying to empower himself with such high profile positions. Rather like the boasts and made-up stories one hears from some teenagers on all manner of subjects. The escapism offered by a new cyber identity is perhaps a welcome relief from a mundane life but at the same time the playacting is a violation of trust and an act of dishonesty. I’m sure that within time anonymity will become impossible online as providers start to insist on verification through cell phones etc.

  5. Noah says:

    Reading this I totally busted out laughing. Talk about bizarre and it just kept getting more bizarre. Very funny. My guess is that he was collecting Facebook ‘friends’ to market to them later. He probably got as many friends as he could from VOA then turned his attention to targeting news groups since he went from being a VOA programmer to a CNN editor. Either that or he’s got a much more interesting career path than I do. Ha.

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