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The first step in conducting online propaganda efforts and misinformation campaigns is almost always a fake social media profile. Phony profiles for nonexistent people worm their way into the social networks of real people, where they can spread their falsehoods. But neither social media companies nor technological innovations offer reliable ways to identify and remove social media profiles that don't represent actual authentic people.
It might sound positive that over six months in late 2017 and early 2018, Facebook detected and suspended some 1.3 billion fake accounts. But an estimated 3 to 4 percent of accounts that remain, or approximately 66 million to 88 million profiles, are also fake but haven't yet been detected. Likewise, estimates are that 9 to 15 percent of Twitter's 336 million accounts are fake.
Fake - Profiles - Facebook - Twitter - People
Fake profiles aren't just on Facebook and Twitter, and they're not only targeting people in the U.S. In December 2017, German intelligence officials warned that Chinese agents using fake LinkedIn profiles were targeting more than 10,000 German government employees. And in mid-August, the Israeli military reported that Hamas was using fake profiles on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to entrap Israeli soldiers into downloading malicious software.
Although social media companies have begun hiring more people and using artificial intelligence to detect fake profiles, that won't be enough to review every profile in time to stop their misuse. As my research explores, the problem isn't actually that people – and algorithms – create fake profiles online. What's really wrong is that other people fall for them.
Research - Users - Trouble - Profiles - Ways
My research into why so many users have trouble spotting fake profiles has identified some ways people could get better at identifying phony accounts – and highlights some places technology companies could help.
To understand social media users' thought processes, I created fake profiles on Facebook and sent out friend requests to...
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