Future looks evil with ‘fakebook’

The first quarterly report published by Facebook last August stated that this most popular social networking website had around 83 million fake profiles. The total number of global Facebook users being 955 million, the quarterly report suggested that 8.7 per cent of the accounts were fake. A shocking number indeed as it suggests that almost nine out of 100 friends of a person on Facebook are fake!

At first glance, these fake profiles may appear to be harmless. However, they plainly endanger users when they are used to defame someone or when the profile is used to lure or rather trap women. And if fake profiles are being used for defamation and trapping women today, they may well be used for a higher grade of anti-social activity and terrorism in the coming days, say cyber experts.

N. Vinayakumar, assistant commissioner of the state’s hi-tech cell, says that most of the complaints he receives are to do with fake profiles in one way or the other. “Approximately 60 per cent of the complaints we receive are because of fake profiles. Most of the cases included people creating duplicate accounts of their victims which they operated for nefarious deeds,” Vinayakumar says.

The steep rise in the number of fake profiles on Facebook demands immediate intervention by the heads of the California-based website or the government authorities if this dangerous trend is to be curbed. “It is unlikely that the Facebook authorities or the government would take action against these fake profiles. Advertisements on Facebook are purely based on the number of hits. So they will never delete the 83 million accounts and thus bring down the advertisement revenue,” says Esahaque Eshwaramangalam, a cyber curator and chairman of the Kerala Cyber Activists Forum.

Eshwaramangalam, who is now planning to move the high court (HC) with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to control these fake profiles, is also sure that the government is unlikely to take any action. “Union minister Kapil Sibal faced the wrath of the people when he tried to control the posts on social networking sites. The ministry realised it is tough imposing strict regulations on Facebook. So the government is using plan B — that is, not to discourage fake profiles, let Facebook become an insecure platform and thus destroy its own credibility,” he added.

The PIL that Eshwaramangalam is set to file seeks the HC’s support in directing the government and Facebook to verify every account by linking the account to a SIM card. “You need an identity card to get a SIM card here. So connecting a personal mobile number to the Facebook account will surely reduce the number of Facebook accounts. Yes, there are still people out there who get duplicate SIM cards with fake IDs. But 99 per cent of the accounts on Facebook could be identified if the government imposes this regulation,” he added.

The police has been finding it hard to identify fake profile users when the profile is created and used through Apple MacBooks. “A simple verification conducted via a mobile phone will definitely solve this issue. When a person creates an account, he will have to type out his mobile number. A verification code will be forwarded to his phone, which needs to be entered to validate his account. This will also ensure that there is only one Facebook account for every mobile number. If a person has two SIM cards, he can have two accounts, but he or she still has to have an address proof,” Eshwaramangalam said.

The PIL also demands a restriction in using photographs of celebrities as profile pictures as this hides the identity of a person.

“For a website like Facebook, it is easy to develop an application to identify photo thefts. And it should be made mandatory for everyone to upload their own passport-sized pictures. People should be able to hide their picture, but the picture will be helpful for the police in case there are any anti social activities,” he said.

There have also been instances where donations have been invited for the poor and bank account numbers have been solicited. The PIL also suggests the need to audit the amount of money transferred based on Facebook posts.

Another interesting suggestion is to equip students with the right to act as cyber police --- in keeping with student police cadets, so that they can easily spot and notify crimes on Facebook. This will also encourage them not to engage in anti social activities in the cyber world.

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