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The scam had been going on for months. [...] Fake Jane had created Fakebook profiles for other people, including some the real Jane knows, in order to make it appear that she was engaging in the public chat, picture posting and other online interactions that are Facebook's hallmark and attraction. [...] definitions of what is public and what is private, what is taboo and what is accepted - and what that will mean for future social relations - are in flux online and off.
Letter from Who Knows Where Facebook Fakebook By Ruth Ellen Gruber I WAS JUST starting to write this “let- It mixed real photographs and biograph- extremely elaborate, ongoing and time- ter”—about social networking and ical and career details about Jane, appar- consuming endeavor for whoever was car- my own take on the Facebook (FB) ently pulled from open Internet sources, rying it out. Before anyone had caught on, phenomenon—when a friend of with invented information and pictures the impostor had amassed many hundreds mine popped up on my computer of someone resembling her. of FB friends and spent hours posting screen with an instant message chat re- The scam had been going on for pictures, comments and similar spurious quest she said was urgent. For readers who months. Moreover, Fake Jane had creat- information. The biographical notes and are not part of the almost 200 million FB ed Fakebook profiles for other people, other material seemed plausible; only a participants around the world, I should including some the real Jane knows, in few turns of phrase would have raised an explain that the Internet behemoth allows order to make it appear that she was en- alert for people who were close with the an easy exchange of biographies, photo- gaging in the public chat, picture posting real Jane. graphs, videos, music, and other material. and other online interactions that are But what was the purpose? Financial FB users set up Web pages, called Facebook’s hallmark and attraction. fraud did not seem to be involved. Nor profiles, containing information about Jane herself, by the way, does not have was there any indication of a sexual pred- themselves and then “friend” other users, a real FB profile. She has avoided all sorts ator at work. And Jane is not a celebrity forming ever-expanding communication of social networking sites, she told me, or politician who could be the target of networks. You can post multimedia con- precisely because of her concerns about a cyberspace spoof or even a stalker, as tent to hundreds of people simultaneous- online security. She had absolutely no many public figures are. ly, engage in one-on-one conversations, idea how her identity had been stolen and Last year, for example, FB removed restrict access to chosen information, cre- her persona was being used—or, more two fake profiles of the son of Benazir ate special pages about upcoming events accurately, abused. Bhutto, the Pakistani candidate for prime or personalities, and also play games like This has been a source of considerable minister assassinated in 2007. A state- online Scrabble (in a form known on FB consternation for Alice, Jane and me. “I ment issued then said: “Facebook exam- as Lexulous). don’t know whom to trust at all on Face- ines a range of criteria to determine The friend who wanted to talk to me book now,” Alice said. “Online social whether a profile is authentic, including so urgently (let’s call her Alice) is both a interaction was already a sort of parallel reports from users, profile content, the e- real-life and a Facebook friend. What she universe, but Jane’s experien
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