May 25, 2012, 4:33 PM — Well it’s been an exciting week here at TY4NS. So far I’ve tracked down a botnet filled with fake 20-something blondes and identified a few dozen companies that, wittingly or otherwise, used that botnet to artificially pump up their Facebook numbers.
At this moment I am hot on the trail of the social media mavens who sell these shady marketing techniques to companies that probably don’t have a clue that what they’re doing is a violation of Facebook’s policies, not to mention totally sleazy.
Here’s the funny thing: None of these activities are especially well hidden. Usually on the Internet black market, things like bot networks and fake accounts are bartered via pseudonymous identities in darknet forums that only the bad guys (and Feds pretending to be bad guys) know about. Or the deals are done via IRC or ICQ chat, with payments made in eGold.
These guys are using the open Web to advertise their wares, handing out their Skype IDs, making YouTube videos about how their bot controlling software works, and taking PayPal payments.
What is wrong with this picture? I asked Facebook spokesperson Fredrick Wolens. This is what he had to say:
Facebook has always been based on a real name culture. This leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users. It’s a violation of our policies to use a fake name or operate under a false identity, and we encourage people to report anyone they think is doing this, either through the report links we provide on the site or through the contact forms in our Help Center. We have a dedicated User Operations team that reviews these reports and takes action as necessary.
We also have technical systems in place to flag and block potential fakes based on name and anomalous site activity. Users who send lots of messages to non-friends, for example, or whose friend requests are rejected at a high rate, are marked as suspect. We’ve built extensive grey lists that prevent users from signing up with names commonly associated with fake accounts. We are constantly iterating on these systems and developing new ones, to provide an even better experience for the people who use our service.
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