by Felicia Cravens
(Part 2) Finding Fake Facebook Profiles
Last week we talked about foreign profiles creating fake news sites and posting links in political groups with American audiences. I gave you several groups to visit, to see whether you could find any accounts from outside the US posting content there. I just went back and checked a few, and I saw posts from Pakistan, the Philippines, Benin, Denmark, India, Switzerland, and several other places. These profiles weren’t hiding their nationality – you could see it on their profiles pretty clearly.
Of course, very few people look closely at who is sharing content into groups like this, assuming all the people posting there are in the US. That’s why so few Americans are aware of how many people from other countries are pushing content at them and exploiting them for their clicks. Keep in mind, though, that so far we’ve only looked at profiles that admit they are from other countries. Now we’re going to dive into fake profiles.
Take a look at this set of nine Facebook profiles. How many do you think are fake?
Can you find the fakes?
Can you tell which ones are fake just by looking at them? Before we go any further, take your best guess, and write it down. When we’re done, we’ll see how close you came. (And at the end of this article, I’ll link to all the profiles. If the fake ones haven’t been removed by Facebook yet, you can look more closely at them.)
Researching a profile to see whether it’s fake can be difficult. Luckily, there’s a search tool that makes it a little easier to find out what a profile has been up to. It’s called Stalk Scan, and it looks like this:
Fake Profile Search Tool
You can copy any Facebook profile into the search bar, hit enter, and then click on the different searches. Each search will only return information that is marked ‘Public’ in Facebook settings, so you don’t have to worry about any privacy violations. We’ll look at each helpful section on its own, starting with the left column.
The first section is the Profile section. Here you can see what pictures and videos the profile has posted, see public posts on the profile’s wall or in groups, and see which groups the profile is a member of. We’ll look at the first profile – Graves Howell Joy – and see what the results look like.
Using StalkScan Search Method
First, notice the link. After the Facebook part, it says ‘nikola20177’. That’s kind of odd for a profile with the name Graves Howell Joy. But that’s not enough to call a profile fake. My own profile link is ‘somethingfishie’ instead of my name. Still, it’s a thing to keep in mind. Notice too, that if you visit the profile and scroll down a bit, you’ll find no posts at all in English. That’s not what you’d expect from a real person from Michigan.
Next, we’ll look at the Pictures search. Click on that and you’ll notice something odd about the pictures that pop up. If you look at each picture, all the comments are in another language. Google Translate says some of them are in Bulgarian, and some are in Croatian. That’s not a good sign.
Click on Groups next, and see what groups this profile belongs to. Scroll down, and you should see both Trump-related groups and some Serbian and Macedonian Facebook groups. That’s another strike against this profile.
Now we can look at Tags and Comments in the middle column. If anyone has tagged the profile in a public post, you should be able to see it here. And you can see public comments the profile has made as well.
Click on Posts in the Tags section. You should notice a bunch of posts where this profile is tagged, and they should all be in other languages, not English. And if you look at Pictures under the Comments section, you should be able to see a bunch of photos with comments also in other languages. In fact, you won’t see much English anywhere associated with this profile. That should be a huge red flag.
Next, we’re going to look at the posts the profile has liked, and any check-ins the profile has made. We find that under the Liked and Places sections.
Clicking around through these options will again show that our profile here is posting almost exclusively in Eastern European languages. Highly inauthentic behavior for someone claiming to be a grandma from Detroit. And if this profile had check-ins in Macedonia or Kosovo or Serbia, you would be able to see them under the All button. I was actually kind of surprised that this one didn’t have check-ins like that.
The final section we’ll look at is in the right-hand column, the Interests section. Here you can find out what pages the profile has liked, among other interests.
Profiles that may otherwise try to look American can easily slip up here, and forget that they had previously liked pages that related to their country of origin. This profile seems to love manicures, and it likes pages from Mongolia, Italy, India, the UK, Pakistan, Portugal, Bangladesh, and the US. If there weren’t a large number of other red flags, I wouldn’t call the profile fake on the page likes alone. But in this case, it’s pretty clear this profile is fake.
Now, if you’d like to try some of the other ones, I’ll include the links to them at the end of this article. Enter them in Stalk Scan, and see how many you think are fake. I’ll give you the answer next week.
In the meantime, this week’s assignment is to try out Stalk Scan for yourself on profiles you might be suspicious of. I get a lot of weird friend requests all the time. If you have the same problem, practice on a few of your sketchy friend requests. Or go to one of those groups I linked to last week and see if you can spot any fakes hiding their identity. The more you use the Stalk Scan tool, the better you can see patterns and discern fakes, so check out a few of these profiles and see what you can find!
|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|