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Facebook Tests Tool That Identifies Fake Accounts

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Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks have been battling the issue of fake accounts for quite some time, but Facebook may gain some serious ground in this fight soon. The company could score some big points with both users and advertisers with the tool it’s in the process of pushing out to everyone.

Facebook Tests Tool That Identifies Fake Accounts

Facebook battles impersonators

According to Mashable, Facebook’s new tool notifies users when it detects a fake account set up by someone who may be impersonating them. When the tool identifies such an account, it alerts the user. To identify these fake accounts, the feature looks at the profile pictures and names. Upon receiving the alert that someone may be impersonating them, users are asked to say whether the profile is a fake one meant to impersonate them using their personal information.

All the notifications for this feature automated, but a Facebook team reviews all the profiles it flags as potentially impersonating accounts. The social network started testing the tool in November and has pushed it out to accounts in approximately 75% of the world, said Mashable. Facebook intends to expand it soon, the website reported, citing Antigone Davis, the social network’s Global Safety Head.

Facebook battles harassment

According to Mashable, impersonating people isn’t a widespread problem, but it is a source of harassment. Women in particular have been reporting problems with harassment, Davis told the tech website. This issue has received quite a lot of attention in the media, particularly in cases involving public figures like reporters or politicians, some of whom have received death threats on the network. On Facebook, the issue is a bit different though.

“It’s a real point of concern for some women in certain regions of the world where it [impersonation] may have certain cultural or social ramifications,” Davis told Mashable, adding that the impersonation tool is aimed at helping women feel safer using Facebook.

This tool may help advertisers too

One thing Mashable doesn’t point out about this new tool is its implications for advertisers as well. Identifying and eliminating fake accounts can increase the returns on their investments because it means that more “real” users are seeing their ads. It seems that this isn’t the focus of the impersonation tool, and certainly it shouldn’t be because user safety is more important. Benefiting advertisers seems to be just a sort of bonus. Of note, Twitter launched a tool in 2014 that aims to identify bot accounts, which can be used for everything from slander to spreading misinformation or malware.

In 2014, Facebook reported in a regulatory filing that up to 137 million accounts might be fake, with the percentage range being given as between 5.5% and 11.2% of accounts. At the time, the social network had about 1.23 billion users. It’s unclear whether it is making progress on this front, but the new feature should help.

Other Facebook features in testing too

Mashable also reports that two additional safety features are being tested on Facebook as well. One involves new ways to report intimate photos that were posted without a user’s consent, and the other is described as a “photo checkup feature.”

The social network banned the posting of intimate photos without a user’s consent in 2012, but Mashable describes the goal of Facebook in rolling out the feature tweak as making it “more compassionate for victims of abuse.” The tweak enables users to not only report a photo as inappropriate but also say that they are in the photo.

After that, outside links will appear so that users can find support groups for victims of abuse or see potential legal actions they might pursue. Of course the feature will also trigger the internal review that already occurs when someone reports a potentially inappropriate photo. According to Mashable, they’re happy with the results of their tests on this tweak so far, but they still want more information before making it available more widely.

The photo checkup tool walks Facebook users through their privacy settings for their photos and explains who can see them in a fashion similar to the privacy dinosaur. Currently this tool is available to users in India, South America, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Shares of Facebook dipped in morning trading today, falling by as much as 0.6% to $111.87.

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