Let’s be real, this quarantine has probably made you spend a lot more time on social media when you weren’t binge watching Netflix documentaries. And during your prolonged social media sessions, you’ve probably encountered at least one fake account, posting offensive comments or sharing suspicious data on your timeline.
Although fake accounts have been part of all online networks since the beginning of the internet, recent years have seen a disturbing epidemic.
More and more fake accounts are being made and managed by troll farms. These social media operations, which are largely based in the Philippines, push the agendas of their clients, usually with offensive and dangerous methods.
Learn why these fake accounts are more dangerous than you think and how you can spot one from a mile away.
The Dangers of Fake Accounts
According to Facebook, approximately 5 percent of all accounts on their platform are fake. That doesn’t sound so bad right? However, Facebook has more than 2 billion accounts, and “just” 5 percent of that is 100 million fake accounts.
That means fake profiles on Facebook alone can match most of the population of the Philippines. Shady companies and politicians have been accused of using these fake accounts for some nefarious plots through the following methods.
Fake accounts can make it seem that a piece of fake news is authentic. After all, if something’s been shared hundreds of times, it must be correct, right? They can also use their numbers to make the fake news seem more important than it really is.
Illusion of Support
Another way people can use fake accounts is to bolster the likes and members of groups. Aside from clicks and likes, fake accounts can also voice their support for a particular person or agenda. This creates the illusion that people are actually listening to someone.
Attack, Attack, Attack
By far the most prevalent use of fake accounts is to smear the social media profiles of opponents. They coordinate attacks and make it look like a lot of people are angry at the target. At the very least, they can derail meaningful interactions and turn a comments section into a digital brawl.
Collectively, these tactics can make a weak movement with no support seem like a juggernaut. After all, social media reflects the real world, right? They can sow disinformation that can have harmful effects and curry support for unscrupulous individuals.
And although social media platforms themselves are monitoring their accounts, you can do something to help them.
Spotting Fake Social Media Accounts
The next time you’re scrolling through your social media feed, you may encounter a suspicious account. But how can you tell if a profile is fake?
Go through this checklist and you may have an accurate answer.
1. See when it was created.
Most people created their social media profiles years ago, probably between 2009 and 2012, depending on their age. Unless the person pictured is very young, accounts that are only a year or two old are highly suspicious. Granted, they may have deactivated or started a new account, but it’s still odd.
2. Check their profile picture.
Fake accounts routinely use equally fake profile pictures. These profile pictures will either be stock photos or photos of landscapes or graphic design images. If their profile photo gallery contains no picture of a real person, the account is probably fake.
3. Look at their posts.
Real people post random things, they don’t just post one thing all the time. Real accounts will also have posts about birthdays, celebrations and past events, you know, things that indicate a personality. Fake accounts will just share or repost other people’s content, usually without even a witty comment.
4. View their photos and albums.
People curate their photos and they make an effort to take Instagram-worthy images. Real people routinely post pics with friends, pictures of food and other random things. Fake accounts will have very bare albums, or their galleries will be full of recycled generic images from other feeds. If an account’s gallery doesn’t have any selfies or pictures of other people, it’s probably fake.
5. Analyze their followers and following.
Most real accounts will have a pretty equal number of followers and followed accounts. Fake accounts will often follow hundreds or thousands of accounts but have relatively few followers. However, cleverer troll farms sometimes make their fake accounts follow each other to create illusion of a real account. Check the number of followers with the amount of posts the account has made and see if its reasonable.
On social media, authenticity is everything. Spotting and, more importantly, reporting fake accounts helps you keep the social media sphere genuine and reflective of the real world.
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P. Torres' favorite animals are dragons, despite the lack of tangible evidence of their existence. When reading books or watching movies, anything with dragons in them gets top priority.