In mid-September, the Israeli Foreign Ministry discovered many fake social media accounts for Israeli foreign diplomats in regions all over the world, including India, Romania, Finland, Albania, and Ecuador. The fake accounts had uploaded content that was virtually identical to the ambassadors’ real accounts.
The Foreign Ministry feared these fake accounts would be used in an attempt to gain credibility on social media and then start spreading false information, or worse, instigating subversive measures. The Ministry contacted Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which removed the fake accounts from their platforms.
Fake Social Media Accounts Are Becoming Rampant
The above is one recent instance of the appearance of fake accounts, but the trend is becoming more prevalent each passing year.
In early September, Meta discovered social media accounts with ties to China and Russia. These accounts posed as Western media outlets to spread disinformation about high-profile political issues.
In August, the U.S. Department of Defense revealed its policy regarding fake social media accounts for the first time, requiring anyone who becomes aware of a DoD impostor account to report it.
Of course, the Pentagon itself has been accused of creating fake social media accounts to spread propaganda in favor of democracy and other Western values.
The idea of spreading propaganda, even Western, might seem unsavory, but there is no denying that much of modern warfare takes place on the digital battlefield. If the United States is not proactive on social media, its rivals will be. China has been caught several times using fake social media accounts and websites, while Russia has been spreading disinformation on many fronts, most notably at the moment about its war against Ukraine.
How to Spot Fake Accounts
Governments employ full departments dedicated to online security, including rooting out fake social media accounts of rival countries.
Private citizens and companies should also be aware that these fake accounts exist and never initiate contact with any of them. For years we have been on the lookout for email hackers, but now it is time to expand awareness to include fake social media accounts.
Signs of a fake account include:
● Information posted as news that seems particularly one-sided or extreme.
● Spelling mistakes, either in the post or in the URL the poster shares.
● A strange profile photo. Some fake accounts use AI to create photos, while others download them from other profiles. You can use Google Image Search to find the source of the photo.
● “Facts” that cannot be confirmed elsewhere.
● Strange comments and followers (fake accounts often create fake followers or pay people to engage with them).
While many fake accounts “only” want to spread disinformation or propaganda, it is always important to be aware of malicious actors who might send viruses or hack into your accounts. Individuals should always have an active antivirus program installed on their devices, while companies of all sizes need comprehensive online security.
Small companies that do not have the resources for an internal cybersecurity department can outsource to a professional cybersecurity firm.