Facebook Groups – Home of Foreign Fakers (Part 1)
by Felicia Cravens
I’ve been tracking fake profiles on Facebook in my spare time this year. That sounds like a silly hobby, but it’s been highly educational. I started because I noticed that many of the profiles I caught sharing fakery seemed to be fake. From there I started seeing patterns emerge. Soon I got pretty good at spotting certain kinds of fakes. And then I got really good; good enough so that over 90% of the time, when I report a profile to Facebook, they take it down. It may take them a while, but over 9 times out of 10 Facebook agrees with me that I’ve found a fake, and down they go.
I encounter some of these fakes in my friend requests, but the vast majority of them I find posting in Facebook groups. Here’s how they operate.
Identify Fake Facebook Users
A faker, we’ll call him Sam, creates a website to make money by running ads next to the stories. Sam needs a lot of traffic to make money, so he needs to publish stories that will potentially bring a lot of people to the site. And if he can get Americans to visit his site, it’ll mean he gets more money than if he got, say, Egyptians or Brazilians to click on it. So Sam tries to tailor his site so it will get American traffic. He’ll do this by focusing on American cultural and political issues.
If he’s clever, he’ll steal content from other websites and pass them off as his own. Can you tell which one is the original, and which one is the stolen one?
And if Sam is REALLY clever, he’ll repeat the process across several sites.
And how does Sam get people to see his sites? How does he drive traffic there? Fake and foreign profiles.
I’ve seen the same stories passed around again and again, and it’s one way I identify those fakers; the fake and foreign profiles push this content into Facebook groups. Facebook is cracking down on ads featuring political content because of the issue of ongoing Russian interference, but fake or foreign profiles can share these stories into Facebook groups all day long for free, where they reach tens or hundreds of thousands of people. As I said before, I’ve helped get Facebook to remove over a thousand fake profiles from the platform, many of whom I’ve identified this way. But there are also profiles from Sri Lanka, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, the Philippines, India, Egypt, Romania, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, Viet Nam, Peru, and other places pushing this content at Americans as well.
I’ll explain in more detail next week how I root out the fake profiles, but this week I have a mission for you. It’ll take just ten minutes, and it’ll illustrate just how many foreign profiles are actively posting content into Trump-related Facebook groups.
All you have to do is visit one (or all) of the Facebook groups listed below and scroll down the page. Every time you see where a profile has posted something, hover your mouse over the name. See if the popup tells you where the profile comes from. It should look something like this:
Make a note of how many you see, and which countries they come from. If you see what I think you will, it just might open your eyes to a kind of ‘foreign interference’ that hardly anyone is talking about. Then come back next week and I’ll introduce you to some new tools that can help uncover fake profiles as well.
These are some of the groups I monitor for fakery:
|Felicia started the Unfakery Facebook page in 2017 to help conservatives learn how to avoid fakery that was targeted at them. As a twenty-year veteran of Texas Republican politics and conservative activism, she feels her credentials might help reach people on the right where other sources might be dismissed. Follow Felicia on Twitter @somethingfishie|
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