Fake news is, well, in the news a lot lately. From Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election to pervasive false stories meant to divide people, fake news has a lot of different underlying goals. Fake social media accounts are often the culprits behind the spread of fake news, and they are a lot more prevalent than you may think. You may be following a fake social media profile or two right now and you would never even know it.
How do you spot fake social media profiles? It’s not always easy but there are often some warning signs. If the profile image is that of a celebrity or an inanimate object, that should be a big red flag. If there are thousands of followers but little engagement that is another red flag. Even some verified social media accounts have been proven to be fake accounts, so don’t count on that little blue checkmark either.
Not all fake social media profiles are malicious, however. Some are created for use in online gaming, while others are created by people who have strict rules about social media handed down from their place of employment. Some are created to be a sort of art form, giving life to an alter ego.
But the problem of fake social media profiles that spread fake news and harm people personally is growing. Between 2014 and 2016 the instances of fake social media profiles created for fraudulent purposes grew 11 times. These are accounts that are pretending to be someone you know or pretending to be a benevolent stranger for the purpose of gaining access to your personal information. Sometimes they can pretend to be someone you know so that you will give them information about the person they are pretending to be. And once your personal information is out there it’s almost impossible to get it back under control.
It’s estimated that there are upwards of 60 million fake Facebook accounts, 48 million fake Twitter accounts, and 24 million fake Instagram accounts. During the 2016 Presidential election a Stanford University study found that there were 115 fake pro-Trump stories on Facebook that had been shared 30 million times and 41 fake pro-Clinton stories that had been shared 7.6 million times. That’s a lot of fake news influencing voters, and it’s likely to continue to get worse.
Learn more about where fake social media profiles come from in this infographic!