Emil Protalinski of TNW exposed that Facebook recently started a small-scale trial encouraging users to report their pseudonym-brandished ”friends” for violating Facebook’s terms of service. According to Protalinski, these prompts are intiated by Facebook for accounts that they believe to be “fake.”
As soon as Facebook rolls this out to the general population, you too can become a Facebook snitch to any friend that is not using their real name, or that is a cat.
Facebook snitches are simply a redirection
Arrested Development’s resident magician Gob Bluth, when about to get into a fight says this:
“I let my fists do the talking. Not this one, ’cause obviously, I need it for coin tricks and stuff. But this one, I let it speak for both of them.”
Facebook’s attitude towards fake accounts is more or less the same: they are fighting the spam battle on all convenient fronts.
There is a very specific kind of fake account that Facebook is targeting – those that don’t interfere with their advertising product. Businesses have been selling advertising with the specific metric of “Like” for a long time. Imagine if accounts that paid for “Likes” all of sudden lost a significant portion of those Likes. They would probably be pretty upset. Facebook is going to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Profiles that Facebook can attribute to purchased third-party “Likes” probably don’t contribute to Facebook’s advertising product – so they are being targeted. Users that use pseudonyms instead of their actual name are an easy target, too. Neither of these populations significantly impact paid Likes.
Facebook has to do something
Facebook reveled how widespread fake accounts were in their last quarterly report, and have shared that they are taking large scale initiatives to curb spamming and fake accounts. Facebook snitches are probably a part of those initiatives. Their next quarterly report will offer some mention of how effective those initiatives have been. It’s important to understand that it’s not a benevolent initiative to improve user experience, but a way to impress uninformed shareholders by weeding out users with nominal utility to Facebook.
With fake Likes for Facebook advertisers estimated at least at 10% (and probably higher), and almost 9% of Facebook profiles purported by Facebook to be fake, redirecting Facebook’s advertising problem to the ancillary, innocous pseudonymous users seems like a pretty shrewd idea….. if Facebook were Gob Bluth.
Postscript 9/26 – PC Mag reports that Facebook is no longer recruiting collaborators to snitch on their friends.