Facebook Fakebook by ProQuest


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.

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									                            Letter from Who Knows Where

                                      Fakebook By Ruth Ellen Gruber

      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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