Inside a counterfeit Facebook farm: This is the process a “Facebook Account Mill” goes through to create a new account. I found it fascinating.
She starts by entering the client’s specifications into the website Fake Name Generator, which returns a sociologically realistic identity: Ashley Nivens, 21, from Nashville, Tennessee, now a student at New York University who works part-time at American Apparel. Casipong then creates an email account. The email address forms the foundation of Ashley Nivens’ Facebook account, which is fleshed out with a profile picture from photos that Braggs’ workers have scraped from dating sites. The whole time, a proxy server makes it seem as though Casipong is accessing the internet from Manhattan, and software disables the cookies that Facebook uses to track suspicious activity.
Next, Casipong inserts a SIM card into a Nokia cellphone, a pre–touch screen antique that’s been used so much, the digits on its keypad have worn away. Once the phone is live, she types its number into Nivens’ Facebook profile and waits for a verification code to arrive via text message. She enters the code into Facebook and — voilà! — Ashley Nivens is, according to Facebook’s security algorithms, a real person. The whole process takes about three minutes.
Interesting how email is the bedrock of the process. Increasingly, everything is tied to an email account.
For its part, Facebook knows this is an issue:
This February, Facebook stated that about 7 percent of its then 1.4 billion accounts were fake or duplicate, and that up to 28 million were “undesirable” — used for activities like spamming. In August 2014, Twitter disclosed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that 23 million — or 8.5 percent — of its 270 million accounts were automated.
I also quietly mourn for a culture in which this is a thing that has to happen.