Spammers, false profiles and virtual holograms We must rethink our identity in order to live in this cyberculture January 19, 2012, 10:02 PM By Ricardo Murer B.S. in Computer Science (USP) and Master's Degree in Communications (USP). Specialist in digital strategy and new technologies. Follow@rdmurer There was a digital time when no one liked to disclose their own identity in the world wide web, the so called Internet, where everyone had a nickname. People would always use an avatar to enter a virtual community or chat rooms to converse, or comment on any issues in the discussion forums. A time when the greatest challenge of the portals and emerging virtual businesses was to find out who were those thousands of people accessing daily this or that virtual service. The story is different today. A new generation is running the Internet. A generation that seeks autonomy and has its own voice, and new relationship codes. A more personalized generation, individualistic, that posts their own photos without fear of showing their faces in cyberspace. We live the new era of the social networks, where one must present a club card before given entry. To join the club people must be exactly who they are. Well, more or less. Wendi Deng Murdoch's recent false profile case on Twitter raises a natural question: How much falseness is there in the virtual world? The event is even more symbolic because the said Wendi Deng's account had received Twitter's own "authenticity seal"! Some recent statistics reveal that there are about 10% of false accounts in Facebook, and approximately 25% false accounts in Twitter (data from fiverr and internetevolution). On one hand, false profiles represent a real danger to social networks as they directly affect the credibility of the services. On the other hand, users do not have the means to double check an identity, which would only be possible by having a real meeting with the person, in other words, go from cyberspace into reality. In fact, any youth with some image editing knowledge, good imagination and patience can create tens of false profiles in any social network in an hour. Email accounts or mobile phone numbers continue to be the criteria adopted to confirm an identity. unfortunately, a criteria that is weak and easy to spoof. However, nothing compares to the art of mass deception of spammers. In spite of global efforts to deter them we continue to receive hundreds of emails daily with 1 false messages sent by zombie servers spread across the globe, at the service of criminal organizations or hackers specialized in creating false identities. Computers do not have any valuable judgment and act accordingly to any programming they receive. How can one know for sure that the Federal Treasury really sent you an email? Who is who in the programmable, deletable and fluid virtual space after all? It is certain that the virtual world has turned our identities into something imprecise, ambiguous and questionable. By searching for an unanimous relationship between the real and virtual personae, the social networks have managed just the opposite: to strengthen the game of shadows, introducing authentic profiles and virtual holograms into the same believable environment. Bruce Sterling in his book titled “The hacker crackdown” wrote: "In spite of it not being exactly real, cyberspace is a real place. Things take place there and with very real consequences". Perhaps it is just that then, that living in this new culture, or cyberculture if you like, means accepting the game of shadows, the clichés, threading on country populated by cyborgs, images and fabricated facts, chatting with bots that have artificial intelligence, and setting virtual dates with people we will never see in real life. Reality? What is reality, really? 2
"Spammers, false profiles and virtual holograms"