That’s about what I expected them to say. But I pressed on. What about folks who use botnets to promote their pages? I asked. What happens to them? Wolens responded thusly.
In addition to the engineering teams that build tools to block spam we also have a dedicated enforcement team that seeks to identify those responsible for spam and works with our legal team to ensure appropriate consequences follow.
He pointed me to this Facebook Security blog post about how the network successfully sued a spammer last year for $360,500,000. (Can’t wait to see them try and collect on that.) But here’s the part of this I really love. On that page, under the People You May Know list were – yes – two of the bot accounts I had written about.
Why were these bots suggested as friends? Only Facebook knows for sure. But while researching this piece I had sent a friend request to “Mandy Barnes,” another bot account that’s a “friend” of the two Jasmines listed above, as an experiment. (She/it has yet to respond.) Mandy was then suggested as a friend to two of my other pseudonymous accounts.
(Yes, I understand the irony of using sock puppet accounts to ferret out other sock puppet accounts. In my defense, I am trying to use them for good and not evil.)
And this is the problem in a nutshell: The way Facebook operates makes this kind of fraud all too easy. It is too easy to set up a fake account, too easy to thwart Facebook’s “verification” techniques, and too easy for these bots to propagate and develop lives of their own, thanks entirely to how aggressive Facebook is about urging its members to connect.
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