Beautiful Nature

Beautiful Nature

Back in early May, I noticed a new post format appear in the ever evolving arena of gaming Facebook’s algorithm. This was coming almost a year after the “still image presented as a video” trick pissed everyone off: plain memes saved as .vid files wedging a briefcase in the closing doors of the video content express train. Never mind that we didn’t get an answer about why video content was given an express train in the first place.

Craig Silverman wrote about these back in July of 2017… and if you read the article, (it’s fun!)… you’d find out that an anonymous source at Facebook denied to Buzzfeed that the video content express train is a thing. Apparently it’s all our fault.

The still meme video asshattery was checked and suppressed by Facebook soon enough. That era of sport seamlessly morphed into the “moving filaments and sparkles over the still meme”- which pissed people off even more than the original cheat. Sorta like a blow-up-doll would, motionlessly mouthing “Loser” at you from the passenger seat of a speeding car in the HOV lane while you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. (I only say that as a deeply resentful page manager who, on principle, refuses to employ the cheap tactics my page is dedicated to exposing.) Before the suppression of stage two could even be noticed by the average user, the tactic evolved once again.

This time the posts contained several elements, a mix of file types, both video and still. There were two versions of this- One, I call the tiled meme: a still meme image that is cut in half horizontally.  The top half of the meme is presented as a still video, perhaps with music. The bottom half of the meme is posted as a jpg. When displayed in a single post- the two pieces line up like tiles with a thin line of grout between them.

paintbynumber

I know. That’s a paint by number. No comment.

This format is popular with a few of the fake Native American pages. I was seeing it a lot. It was being used not just to get some extra surfacing, it was also being used to spread a lot of fake garbage- like this grammar trainwreck hoax about Willie Nelson being ill:

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I also wrote this post about a Glen Douglas image being used as Birthday Bait: (and more birthday bait)  I also want to point out that these examples of homogeneous garbage tile meme content were pulled from three different pages, Proud to be Native America, We are Native American and Native American Proud.  None are Native American owned pages.

glendouglas

The tiled meme trick has some pitfalls, the individual elements sometimes collect their own sets of comments and can also be inadvertently shared alone- destroying the unity of the tiled post format.

toptile

There was even a format backlash page created on May 25, 2018  called “Meme Repair and Quality Memes” The page could be the next best thing since unsliced bread.

The other style of mixed file format that I noticed in Early May is a video and usually three photos which are stills pulled from the video.  The effect is redundant to say the least- but packing four elements into one post must have had some beneficial effect as I saw many pages using it. I posted about it on May 12.

 

The week before I had made a spreadsheet in an attempt to get a handle on the size of the network behind these “Beautiful Nature” pages, and as I dug deeper into the tightly woven tangle, it was clear there was no end in sight.  I eventually set a goal of listing 250 of them.  The pages, like the content within them, were mass produced and formulaic. Some pages I entered in the sheet got the notation “more to mine”- that simply meant that I suspected that page would lead to yet another branch of networking but that I was trying to stay on the path I was already  following.

Some people are confused when I include Kitten content in the list of abuses I warn people about.  They seem to think that Fake News and partisian politics are where the corruption and abuse of the platform is taking place. I say when it comes to profit motivated players- the content is just the vector- what it actually is, that’s irrelevant. Learning to recognize the tactics is how you avoid the abuses.  You can fact check Honey Pot Times stories till Snopes lists you as a benefactor- but as long as you keep going back for more of the same garbage from the same source with the same motivation pumping out the content- you are vulnerable to being suckered and you are supporting an abusive system that is spiraling downward.  If people can’t recognize the abusive lie at the source, when a sick child’s picture is used as pray-bait- I can’t expect that they would recognize when a misquoted politician’s photo is being used as rage-bait.  I had hoped that puppies and sunset content might be a less volatile subject to try to use as an education tool, because it is impossible to approach bogus politically divisive memes without being dismissed by the identity signalling sharer as merely supporting the “other side”.

What could possibly be wrong with “Beautiful Nature”? and why would I spend time documenting a network of serial sunset and hummingbird spammers?

1. The post format I had noticed was an obvious trick for surfacing.  The importance of the content was not balanced with the force of the machine promoting it.  This incongruity is a clear sign that there is something else at play.  No one could reasonably think that it is so important to pull out all the surfacing stops that as many people as possible see and set their sights on an infinity swimming pool photo when the page isn’t even selling a room at the resort.

2. The network was doing what I call “cross amplification” They were sharing posts from one large page into many other large pages.  Obviously the network was in possession   of the raw content (I’m not saying they OWN it… I’m just saying they have it) they could just upload the content on as many pages as they want and this would produce cleaner posts- but by sharing a post from one page- to 30 different pages *they also own* that specific shared post could gain cumulative engagement power rather than each post having to start from square one to build its momentum.  Most people don’t think about these things when they see a page share a post from another page.  But this network was so abusive in it’s off topic cross amplification- some people were leaving bad reviews and seemed confused by the lack of focus. The reason why they were confused is that they weren’t comprehending that all the pages were coming from the same engagement mill.

3.  I can’t even call it a content farm/ content mill- as it appeared to me that all of the content was stolen and used without attribution.  This, more than any other thing, is the “crime” that makes the network the work of truly bad actors.  The whole network is built on the foundation of stolen property.  In the population of low-grade content consumers there seems to be a lot of confusion about copyright, with many believing that once something is posted online you no longer have control over who uses it.  That may be true, but it does not mean that copyright does not exist. Facebook does such a piss poor job protecting the creators of the elements of photography, video and writing that are the essential components of “content” that a general attitude has been fostered that it’s perfectly legitimate to take and reuse what you find just laying around on the internet.  A surprising number of people are unable to grasp the distinction between taking someone’s content and sharing it. Facebook doesn’t simply overlook these crimes against creative people, they have made their blind eye into a lucrative loophole, collecting advertising fees for tee shirts with stolen designs, collecting post boosting fees of freebooted video and monetizing instant articles of plagiarized stories.

If you don’t understand what freebooting is, or why there is any harm in it- here are two youtube videos that do a great job explaining it:
FIX  : Smarter Every Day on Freebooting
Kurzgesagt on Freebooting

In regular practice- pages share on-topic material from multiple sources for the benefit of the interested page audience.  They keep their audience engaged by creating and aggregating relevant content. Sharing posts from a variety of sources builds up community networks and helps out other content producers by putting their stuff in front of more people.  This network did the opposite- it fed their audience a variety of in-network cross amplification content regardless of the theme. The content is severed from it’s source and beret of any important contextual imormation.  People were commenting on photos of Dream Vacation pages asking, “Where is this?” and of course not getting an answer from the automated content factory that was merely scraping someone’s Pinterest for linkless uncaptioned unattributed photos.

Feel free to skip to the end if you want to get to the spreadsheet, I have to do an aside:

Let’s talk about Simplemost.  This is an American content mill owned by the E.W. Scripps company based in Cincinnati Ohio.  Scripps is an old newspaper and broadcasting company behind many local and national stations.
You may be see some familiar logos in this dramatic nationwide map.

Simplemost, in their own words: “The goal of Simplemost is to provide women with the news that can impact their lives, along with ideas and tips to help make things just a little easier.”

OK- I’ll just set the obvious insult to my entire being aside for this blogpost as it’s getting pretty long already… but I’ll just mutter… “What exactly does being a woman have to do with this?”  …OK… flip-flop sales could be considered news… maybe. Especially if the journalist writes lengthy articles about the sale while maintaining that it’s not an advertisement (fine print: they do maybe get a small kickback from sales) We can know it’s not an ad because there are other ads placed within the “article”… you can’t sell ads inside other people’s ads now can you? that’s all the proof you need.  Getting my women’s news from Simplemost makes me almost as happy as being invited to a Mary Kay party.  The fact that Scripps doesn’t have a parallel content mill for men makes me wonder what that might look like… oh never mind, forget I asked.

If this is sparking your curiosity, Daniel Walters wrote an article for the Inlander about Simplemost content on the Facebook pages of local news stations back in February.

How does Simplemost work?  There are lots of content mills like this, it would be good to begin to recognize them, and to adjust your consumption accordingly.  They have a team who churns out content, and they also take submissions.  The content is sorted into categories.  If you have a place that lacks some content- if you just need a little filler to keep your audience idly present- like elevator music for human eyes… assuming you meet their qualifications (lots of page likes and the ability to generate traffic), you can get an account which allows a page owner to use Simplemost content to stock a page that obviously doesn’t have a reason for existing. I’m sorry I can’t find the link to the Simplemost account requirements today- I read it back in May and it didn’t seem hard to find back then.  It even had specifics like the number of likes your page had to have as well as the expected payout for your traffic.  When a Facebook page doesn’t have anything of their own, or anything stolen from someone else, Simplemost can provide the page curator revenue generating filler. Apparently Simplemost does discourage copyright violators and in Section 12 of their terms of use says that they don’t want to associate with them although I am unsure if that extends to the point of distribution and not just the aquisition of content.

When the audience clicks on the Simplemost content- that makes money for the page owner.  So you see- they can fake out 300,000 people to like a page allegedly about Beautiful Nature, and then slip them a link or twenty about stuff like a reboot of the show “The Nanny” and make money. (note: this screenshot shows a Simplemost instant article, so Facebook is also serving and profiting from targeted ads to the viewer)  Simplemost pays the page for the traffic- advertisers pay Simplemost to show their ads to the visitors (or pays a little kickback when people buy products after reading Simplemost “articles”).  The people who are being sent aimlessly around only pay with their time and digital footprints.  Simplemost content, like the cross amplification I mentioned earlier- carries with it the cumulative weight of the rolling engagement snowball.

nanny

There is another mill called Providr- they are another content source the Beautiful Nature network is using.  Providr is only interested in working with pages with a quarter million likes and up.  My spreadsheet notes some of the pages sharing Simplemost and Providr content- but it may not be a complete listing, if I did not thoroughly scroll through the page posts- I may have missed it.  I may have also not known to note the associations until I was deep into the job, which is now alphabetized.

I saw a lot of Providr content as I was hopscotching through the Beautiful Nature network last night.  The cheap train trip map caught my eye over and over.  So I had to do some backtracking when I saw the Providr train map associated with a website called incrediblenat.com.  This is what Zia Uddin’s incrediblenat.com train-trip article looks like (whoohoo- I  did it! I archived a webpage for a solid link in the future!…Providr’s website wouldn’t let wayback crawl it I guess) The 3 month old website is registered to Abdul Samad in Karachi. This website is featured prominently on the Facebook page “Luxury World” with over 1,100,000 likes.  Does Providr also licence their content for filler on other websites (with faked bylines)? The article posted to Providr’s website on 12/13/17 does not name the author.

Before I get to the Beautiful Nature spreadsheet- I just wanted to mention this other strange little set of at least 12 pages I found, one has been disabled.  I named this set “Pages with long and vulgar names” I remain stunned by my lack of naming imagination in the face of what I now understand could be infinite possibility. These pages all use Simplemost content. Some, like #12- almost exclusively. Other content mills used by these pages include postize.com, providr.com, viralthread.com, and teenmomtalknow.com  I wonder what Simplemost thinks about their brand being the core content of pages like these?

vulgarnames

This example from the Beautiful Nature network, “Wonderful Nature Clicks” I just pulled to show redundant excess- they have posted 15 Simplemost articles in the past five hours. That streak abruptly switches off to cross amplification of network page posts before going back to Simplemost- for a total of about 50 posts in 12 hours.

Here is a strange one- On the page “Stories in Picture” Tina left a negative one star review and two more people chimed in agreeing with her.  Thank goodness some people are paying attention, but what follows… this is just the sort of thing that has me thinking people are asleep at the wheel.  Guillermo posts a five star review using Tina’s negative comment word for word except he adds “excelente page” at the end. How weird.

storyinpicture

Relentlessly curious as I am, I went to Guillermo’s profile to see if he had reviewed anything else and found this on the page WebArt.  (this page was not included in the Beautiful Nature network and only appears connected through Guillermo)

webart

This page “Beautiful Animals Moment” is full of awful reviews that don’t seem to be coming from bots- people are pissed!

“This page does not publish things according to its title, it shows animals been devored, animal suffering and it’s frecuently disgusting.Not animal friendly at all.I don’t want to see anymore.”

“Is this suposed to be funny or is it about animal torture ?
This page is not about beautiful animal moments at all.”

“Horrible, cruel, animal torture videos, this group should be closed down”

So about that…

I made the “Beautiful Nature” spreadsheet back on May 7th and 8th, I made a small post about it on the 12th and then I set it aside.

This week I was working on another spreadsheet- documenting military Romance scam profiles that are using the stolen photos and variations of the name William Galbraith- I feel the need to document reported profiles because Facebook ceased sending feedback reports in late May.  Now there is zero record of reported profiles or feedback about Facebook’s action (or inaction) The reporting process is now a bit like putting notes in a bottle and tossing them into the sea. So hopefully spreadsheets like this (with over 100 same name profiles using photos that should be cataloged in a facial recognition database by now) may force a little bit of accountability and highlight how hollow their PR promises ring when they speak about their fantastic new tech that can detect bad actors.

galbraith

This brought up a conversation with Felicia over at Unfakery who I had worked with on a botnest of autoposting profiles. That strange situation was publicized in a Buzzfeed article.  Felicia said that amazingly, even after all the publicity, the bot accounts were still present on Facebook.

I wondered what was going on with the Beautiful Nature Network.  Pages I had not reported, but merely listed. At the time- due to the effect of surfing hundreds of network pages for hours on end- my own newsfeed was overwhelmed with network shares from my own backstabby hummingbird and rolling fields of lavendar loving friends.  At least from the algorithmic filter I’d created, it seemed as if that network was well on it’s way to total platform domination that week.  So imagine my surprise when I opened my spreadsheet and began to open tabs- that many of the links were broken.  Turns out, precisely 50% of the links I had managed to document were broken: 124 of 249. (as of 6/25/18)   Well that’s interesting.  I must not be the only person who can find banal pretty content problematic.  Facebook was already on the case… but what case were they on?  They took a much bigger bite out of the Beautiful Nature network than they ever did to the Fake Native pages from Kosovo.  What was the violation those removed pages had committed that called for their removal? Big…BIG pages… gone.  For what reason? I could guess- but the part that is confusing to me is that so many pages from the same network proved to be seriously problematic- yet 50% of them remain.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, it is in no way complete.
Deleted page links are marked with red.
Here is the link to the spreadsheet

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Is it really that hard to detect bogus accounts? 

Is it really that hard to detect bogus accounts? 

A tweet by Zeynep Tufekci about the unchecked virality and potential of profiteering from hatemongering on Facebook reminded me of a post I had written back in February of 2017.

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Many clickbait sites simultaneously ran a story about a muder that had happened in Germany in February of 2016. The story was pushed out with outrage headlines and together had garnered almost 50,000 shares when I counted last February.

Curious if this story was still floating around I searched Facebook for it again. I found a garbage clickbait website with more ads than copy. The page was full of ads, invasive popups and the article had a Spetember 14, 2017 date. Can you even find the article?

img_7892img_7894

The website yourviralstory .com is listed as being registered to a Rafael Joseph Rivera and is hosted by the same IP address as another website, Newsduterte. Com.

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The story was placed in a Facebook group called “Hispanics, Latinos, Mexicans for Trump.” by a profile called Budak Xiel Lhanie.

Searching the group for posts by Budak I see that Budak has only posted links to two websites, Yourviralstory and Newsduterte.

img_7897img_7896
Going to Budak’s profile I feel confident that this profile of an alleged Harvard graduate is not legitimate and have no qualms about posting about it critically and publicly.

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The two following links will open with search results showing the actual posts and groups as your own FB privacy settings allow you to view them.

Of the public groups Budak is a member, three of them are local to the Philippines. Eighteen of them are Donald Trump focused groups and one is for Sean Hannity fans.

Of the public postings Budak has made, all of them link to either Yourviralstory or Newsduterte.

On September 9, 2017 Budak made 32 posts of 11 different articles from Yourviralstory into Donald Trump groups. Budak never posts links to the same story more than three times and Budak almost always posts links to the same story exactly three times. This is likely an adaptation to fly under Facebook’s radar as a spammer. It goes without saying that the introduction text Budak adds with each post is identical each time.

Timestamps also reveal automation:

10:26 AM- 10:40- 11 posts

1:33 PM- 1:40 – 12 posts

3:41 PM – 3:45 – 9 posts

I find it had to believe that Facebook’s machine learning is so simplistic that a cluster posting pattern like this would not register as a problem:

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3

But one like this maybe would (also 32 posts)

1 3 2 1 1 3 2 6 2 3 1 7

I don’t really have more words to summarize this quick and dirty peek at the flood of garbage content on facebook that flows unchecked. There you have it.

While the news is full of concerns about Russian trolls, political ads and collusion there are many other players who are toying with incendiary subjects, not always *fake* news; sometimes real news, misused, tied in a knot, cherry picked and amplified beyond it’s logical place in space and time, possibly for no reason other than simple profit.

Prayers for Dakota

Prayers for Dakota
Since last winter there have been a vague prayer requests going around Facebook. This hoax was common enough that there is a Snopes entry on it. There are several variations in the phrasing. There are some things that most versions have in common.
  • Urgent call for prayers
  • The child’s name is Dakota
  • He was “life flighted”
  • Having seizures
  • Mention of the person posting the prayer request being a friend of the child’s grandmother, father, or friend of family (making the request seem to be close to the source)
  • Request to forward to everyone you know
Now there is a new level of evil to the hoaxing.

A teen named Dakota Miller had a firearm accident on Thursday May 11, 2017 in Greenup County Kentucky. This story is unfortunately true. There is a local news story about a prayer vigil which was held on May 17 at the Greenup County Highschool.

A family friend set up a GoFundMe to help support the Miller family through this hard time- but it was reported for being a hoax and she had to take it down.

It appears that the Facebook hoax makers have purposely designed posts which mirror the original hoax posts to make more confusion surrounding the situation with Dakota Miller.  Although in both cases the person’s name is Dakota, there is no logical reason that the prayer requests for Dakota Miller would be virtual twins of the original hoax unless someone wanted to see just how much they could get away with.  People who had gotten wise to the original hoax- are now making corrections when people post the new request.  I will provide dated examples of posts so you can see how the posts are constructed as well as blended to make confusion.

I pray that Dakota Miller is able to make a full recovery surrounded by the love and support of all of his family and community who care so deeply for him.

This post from May 17 has a photo attached.  The photo was taken from a 2014 New York Daily News story   (I have cropped it) about a 13 year old boy who was caught in crossfire and shot twice in the head.

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May 18- (old hoax- notice Micheal bass is referred to as a friend of the person who finally posted this urgent request over six months after it appeared!!)

Hey, can you help me get a prayer chain going for my friend micheal bass’s little boy named Dakota. They had to life flight him. He is having seizures. Forward this to everyone you can please!
May 18- (they call Dakota Miller a little boy)
Hey, can you help me get a prayer chain going for a little boy named Dakota Miller? They had to life flight him. He shot himself and he’s on life support. Forward this to everyone you can please! It’s really appreciated.
May 17- (they add in the name Micheal Bass- the “father” in the old hoax and substitute “shot his self” for “is having seizures”)

Hey, can you help me get a prayer chain going for micheal bass’s little boy named Dakota miller. They had to life flight him. He shot his self and he’s on life support. Forward this to everyone you can please! It’s really appreciated.

May 10- (this person has been fooled by the close friend connection implication)

Please pray for a little boy named Dakota, he is a friend son of a friend {FRIEND’S NAME} He suffers from seizures and had to be life flight. Thanks everyone prayers do work.
May 4-
Hey, can you help me get a prayer chain going for my friend Micheal Bass’s little boy named Dakota. They had to life flight him. He is having seizures. Forward this to everyone you can please!May 1-
Trying to help a friend get a prayer chain going for his friend micheal bass’s little boy named Dakota. They had to life flight him. He is having seizures. Forward this to everyone you can please!

April 30- 

Hey, can you help me get a prayer chain going for a little boy named Dakota. They had to life flight him. He is having seizures. Forward this to everyone you can please! He is a young boy that we know in California. Thank you and we will let you know his progress as time goes on. Thank you and blessings to you all. Rev. Mark

December 15 2016

Pray for Dakota. They had to life flight him. He is having seizures. Sent from another pastor, we all need to pray.

December 15, 2016
Dakota is on a life flight. He is having seizures.
Please pray for him.

Hours later the person posting this wrote: I may have been scammed. The original message came from a trusted friend. It described him as the grandson of one of their friends. I have since gotten the same message from 6 other people.
In the case of a hurting child, better safe than sorry.

 

A Doctor From Texas

A Doctor From Texas

Today I noticed a picture of a handsome well dressed man in the “suggested friends” Facebook was offering me.  (1)


I could see we had one mutual friend. I was concerned that my friend may have friended a scammer I clicked on his profile to see more about him.


Right away I see this profile is fake. I was angered to see that many of the women who had accepted his request were widows and it was clear that they had been targeted by a sweetheart scammer. I was sad to think of the women who are right now, falling in love with and being set up by a predator.  

Name: Andy Harrington – nice crisp soap opera name. Also happens to be a motivational speaker. This sets the stage.

He doesn’t have to tell us he is a doctor… he’s going to show us a stethoscope- a watermarked stock photo of a stethoscope.

 

He is from Houston Texas. To a Texan this may not seem odd- but in the scamming Americans business when you don’t really know much about the USA- Texas, California and New York are favorite choices and deserve extra consideration. 

He only has twelve friends.

They are all women.

Several of them have “widowed” clearly indicated in their profile.

His profile picture was uploaded only one week ago.   


His profile is locked down and we can’t see anything he is posting or any photos.

Put his profile picture to a reverse image search: It turns out the man in the stolen photo is really well known…  his name is олег кувшинников.  Oleg Kuvshinnikov, the govenor of Vologda.  All of the search results are Russian. (2)


I reported the profile to Facebook and they removed it. (3)


Hopefully in the eight days since this profile was made, this scammer has not been able to advance his agenda far.  Frequently the first order of business is to move the communication with the target off the platform where they were found in order to avoid just this sort of security action by the hosting site. Hopefully he does not already have their e mail, skype or phone numbers. 

The scammer does already have “their number” so to speak and these women may find an increase in the number of friend requests from strangers. When discussing romance scammers, inevidably someone will chime in stating that they get two or three requests a day. That is excessive even for Facebook and they have most likely somehow wound up on a list as a mark. Scammers share and sell these lists. 

These people should check their friend lists. (4)  Run a security checkup (5) and consider what groups they post in where their profile may catch the attention of a shark. Some poorly administrated groups seem to attract the bottomfeeders.

  1. To see suggested friends, go to the friend icon and look beyond the friend requests. There you will find about 100 profiles Facebook is offering you because of some mutual or unknown connection. The method Facebook uses to make these choices is unknown. I believe that more recent friending activity increases the odds of those connections being highlighted.  My friend recently connected to this new profile and that is why this negligible “connection” was offered to me rather than any other of her longtime friends who have nothing in common with me other than her.  Facebook surfaces new activity.  This means that the suggested friends list is a good place to catch impostors as they break into human networks!
  2. Google image search or Tineye are tools that everyone should know how to use and get in the habit of using. If you browse with Chrome on a PC, simply make the picture large> right click on it> and select “search google for this image” from the menu.  If you browse from a smartphone, save the picture to your photo album and the use the CtrlQ interface to run the search. 
  3. Reporting a profile is also something everyone should know how to do.  Facebook has this reporting menu tucked behind an icon that doesn’t really symbolize anything except maybe “more stuff here” it’s three dots. From that menu you will find “Report” and you will have to go through several selections before you get to the final screen where you must not forget to complete the process by selecting “Report this profile to Facebook” and “Done”  Within a day you will hear back from Facebook what they have decided to do.  It will be one of three things. The profile will stay and you will be offered the option to block it. The profile is questionable and Facebook will follow up with the account owner to verify if it is legit. The profile violated some (unstated) Community Standards rule and has been removed. 
  4. Checking your friends list can be daunting. Sometimes you may encounter someone you don’t even remember friending.  If you go to the same MORE menu ( . . . ) where you find the Report option. You will also see an option for “See Friendship” this will show mutual friends, when you became friends, and photos and posts you are both tagged in. If this area is very blank and you don’t even recall the person’s name- you can probably delete that friend and never miss them. 
  5. Run a security checkup 

Stay safe ladies (and Gents!!).  Stay skeptical.  This documentary on the Sakawa Boys Internet Scamming in Ghana is a very eye opening look at some of the people who are behind these friend requests.

Kosovo Boys’ Territory Finally Recognized as Disputed


Pants on fire! The Kosovo boys have managed to catch the attention of Facebook’s independent fact checkers with the silly story (they didn’t write it) about Trump deporting Native Americans back to India. 
 Politifact’s Joshua Gillan was tasked with the story. I don’t know him but I can imagine the expression on his face when he found it on his desk… “seriously? …SERIOUSLY? Isn’t there some more important or less embarrassing fake news that I could look into? Does America really need ME to tell them this is not real?”

Yes Josh, yes we do. Please continue.

So Josh dug in and did a pretty good job of explaining the situation. Maybe he didn’t fully understand the size of the iceberg on which he happened to be chipping but he did manage to get the “checked by Politifact” flag set and was able to move on to bigger and hopefully better things, perhaps even before lunch. 

Snopes on the other hand. Whatever you do- don’t look at the Elephant over there!! Snopes managed to “debunk” the story without even questioning the website which published it.  (Politifact named several fake Native pages who had published it, iLoveNativeAmericansdotus WeLoveNativedotcom  and NativeAmericansdotNews while Snopes only mentions the first one) 

While identifying the Postillion as the originator of the satire article and firmly verifying the fact that they are a self proclaimed satire website, Snopes seems to present the secondary publisher as an innocent victim who fell for it. I guess because innocent victims always wind up accidentally publishing other people’s articles on their tossed up websites and pushing the links out on the Facebook platform with fake pages and fake profiles. Sorry Snopes- that fact checking effort earns Kim LaCapria a “better luck next time”

In fairness to LaCapria, it appears that she checked into this Postillion story back in February and then that old debunk simply got a quick edit update to include the second publisher, while Gillan’s Politifact-check began after the second wave of traffic.

http://www.snopes.com/deport-native-americans-india/

UPDATE: May 16 2017


The absurdity of this story jumped up a few notches when I saw it surface again in my newsfeed on May 10th- this time presented in the form of an “Instant Article” (pictured above)

I have been trying to learn more about instant articles and form some thoughts about them. Joe Lazauskas of Contently wrote this old article which paints the format in glowing terms although I don’t recall ever seeing the snazzy features they mention- I’ll need to look for them!  Most Facebook users don’t know what instant articles are or how to recognize them, so the “faster loading” selling point isn’t something that is going to matter much when they decide to click on it or not.

What concerns me as an advocate for media literacy, (a title I have never applied to myself until this very moment) – is that instant articles prevent the user from seeing an actual URL associated with the link- a detail many have been encouraging people to pay attention to before clicking. So just as we are making some headway on that front- Facebook introduces a news delivery system that makes all articles appear in the same homogenous sleek black bordered format, and now, rather than the standard chumbox of clickbait ads- our instant articles may be served with razor sharp targeting of Facebook’s own datamine, a revenue Facebook shares with the original host of the article. 

This is what I saw in my newsfeed:


Now I need to point out several moments of problem in this one screenshot.

1. This Isak Mirena profile is a fake female profile, I believe the woman in the picture is an Albanian pop star. Isak is a masculine name and I believe it is really the name of the person running the account (and website) The not entirely fake profile consists only of link sharing to bogus Eastern European facebook pages, mostly fake Native American pages but the most recent monstrosity is the brand new page called “Stop Cancer- Fight Cancer” featuring comment baiting posts such as this (I croppped the woman’s image for her privacy)


2. Isak Mirena was sharing this instant article to the group called “Native American’s” (sic) This group is a fake group also run from Eastern Europe and both of the admins are named Mirena. The group exists only as a place to seed posts from their fake pages into the FB population.  

3. At the bottom of the post we see “National Native News” and under that in grey text with the instant article lightning icon “Army Special Forces” there seems to be a big leap to get from Native News to Special Forces- but if you know the clickbaiter game already – the Kosovo boys also run fake US Military and Police and Police K9 support pages along with all the Native American and Animals pages. So maybe there is a reason why they placed this article on a pseudo-military clickbait website. 

Well… hmmm.

Clicking out of the instant article format I discover the hosting website is nativenews.info 

So we don’t ever discover the Army Special Forces connection.

 

NativenewsDotInfo is registered to Isak Mirena in Serbia/Kosovo. Isak is in Prishtina, where most of the fake Native pages are based. 


This is a pretty good example of how the instant article format has obscured the true domain and made the very first step of fake news awareness (look at the url) impossible. 

What is truly mind boggling is how this article which had already been flagged by the fact checkers was approved as an instant article. These articles are supposed to have a modicum of quality.  Here is a link to the FAQ about instant articles which do not appear to be as closely supervised as I had originally believed. It appears thatnew publishers   have to submit 5 articles for approval to demonstrate that they can manage the build- but beyond that I don’t know that Facebook is offering any oversight other than maintaining a limit on the ad : content ratio. 

Teechip poster marketing scam.

Teechip poster marketing scam.

Edmonton Artist Ricky Hamilton’s photo has been going around facebook a lot recently. Sadly the photo of him proudly posing with his work, a large dreamy vibrant blue painting depicting wolves on a mountain and in the northern lights overhead, is not what you will see.

In order to find this photo and the name of the artist, I had to black out a picture that had been photoshopped into the rectangle of his canvas. 

 
I had to black out the other image because it was so common, image search always pointed to the artwork and not to the man in the photo.  The first poorly photoshopped version of this I saw was using a picture called “Sky Kings” which is a paint by number kit manifactured by Plaid. I do not know who the artist is who expertly colored the design… I can say that the hack who photoshopped the image was no artist.  It was this horrible photoshopping coming from this fraud page “Native American Indigenous” which inspired me to hunt down the name of the man in the picture.


I was tortured for a week watching people respond to the comment bait of this post. I tried to inform them and I could not slow the flow of positive “one word” comments flooding in.  It seems that when a person is instructed to say one word- they don’t bother to read the other comments just in case someone else had more than one word to say. 

I posted the link to Ricky Hamilton’s Webpage, and I posted the original photo I had found with his wolves. I posted damning evidence about the fraud page. I tried to eplain what comment baiting is…nothing made any difference- they were going to get their one word in.


This morning I saw a new photoshopped version coming from another fraud page- “I am indigenous” (they are absolutely not!)  this time the photoshop job was a little more believable and the post was baited for rating from 1-10.

How long is this going to go on before people understand baiting? While the top tier has big international tech and journalism conferences about combating “false news” and Zuckerberg assumes we need some augmented reality- they are trying to come up with technologies to fight this…

 Meanwhile back in the trenches people are asking me, “What do you mean clickbait?” I’m not joking.  Big unrecognised portions of the population have NO IDEA that websites make money through traffic… so when someone wearing a high viz uniform and blowing a whistle points them to go- they go!! When it tells to to share- they share! When it tells them to comment “yes” … they type “Yes.” When it tells them to comment “A’ho” they type” A’ho”.  

Their sister page “Native American Indigenous” also had a version. 


“Proud to be a Native” shares to “Crazy Bitches” all the time…. a freaky page that probably makes real proud Natives cringe at the association.  


Buried in the comments were a few people trying to get the truth out between the ratings coming in like machinegun fire- one person shared this, still bearing the other artist Anne Stokes’ watermark as proof that the photo was shopped:


Another on “Proud to be a Native”


Which links to a TeeChip poster sales page


So at this point, the fact that these Fraud Native pages are cheating and lying at every level of the game they are playing with no accountability what so ever on the Facebook platform. And this company TeeChip is a great big scammy mess.

I wrote up my post with screenshots for my facebook page Exploiting the Niche and went to take the link to share with the “TeeChip is a Scam” page.  There in the visitor’s posts was a whole new story of deception and scammery that seems to be stepping WAY over the line into criminality.

One person shared a story and two more people commented with identical stories- TeeChip fraudulently charged their credit card for purchases they hadn’t made. These were not nickle and dime charges- they were over $200 and one person was charged $220 – TWICE.  These people disputed the charges with their credit card- ALL of them were banking with WELLS FARGO.  Weeks later the original poster recieved a box of unsellable junk merchandise that he hadn’t ordered. 

Update: found another altered image- this one and the aqua toned painting with wolf and dreamcatcher pictured earlier are the works of Carol Cavalaris. 

Update: 5/1/17 they keep putting out more-they  have also taken a poctire from Ricky Hamilton’s website and posted it as rate-bait without even mentioning his name.

Update- May 12, 2017 and the page “Proud to be a native” is still churning out new stolen combinations-

Snakepit of Stolen Valor

Snakepit of Stolen Valor

Four star general’s identity stolen by scammers on Facebook.

Yesterday evening I was sitting in the crowded waiting room of an urgent care clinic with my sons, one in need of some stitches.  Checking Facebook on my phone, I see I have a new friend request… a notification which fills me with both anticipation and dread.

I click.  And what have we here?…. a four star general.  Is that supposed to be capitalized?  Four Star General?  It feels like it should be.  Maybe all capitalized- FOUR STAR GENERAL!  I roll my eyes and mutter, “Honey.  You picked the wrong lady.”

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A quick reverse Google image and Tineye search on the profile and home page picture return no results.  I already know that I’m not getting some “random” from a four star general, I just want to know what the real man’s name is.  I confess I can not recognize many, if any, of our high ranking military commanders from photos.

By the way- if you use a phone for most of your interneting- is is possible to do reverse google image searches using an ap through CTRLQ.org  I keep a bookmark to it on my homescreen.  If you surf on a PC using a Chrome browser- you can get to Google’s reverse image search directly from your right click menu.  

Finally a photo the scammer had added in a batch to his profile takes me to a page dedicated to the general at the scamhater’s website (they have uploaded so many photos stolen and used by scammers and work so hard to help people and educate them about how this works) The scammer is using the same name as the general.  So a I have a full impostor scammer, face and name. …and that makes me feel kind of bristly.

What else am I going to do in the waiting room?  I search Facebook for the name.  There are a lot of real people with that name- it’s a long scroll.  I pick out the pictures of the general and one by one report them to facebook.  I notice that many of these profiles are about two days old, so it seems there was a single source who made a big batch of these recently.

Most had their friends hidden or only had one or two friends.  One had about twelve older lady friends… and one, a white haired grandmother- who only had four posts in her year-old profile… The first explaining that her grandkids had helped her set up a Facebook account.  *Stab me in the heart* Oh goodness I hope he doesn’t have his claws in her!!  (I was just talking to a lady whose mother with the early stages of dementia had been taken for $8000 by wire fraud scammers.)

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One of the Facebook profiles was even using a watermarked photo taken from the Scamhater’s website!! The insanity never ends!  

In all I was able to report 43 fake profiles which were using both the name and photos of the general before the receptionist called us back to see the doctor.  It can take a while for Facebook’s replies to trickle back in- it looks like they have decided to keep six of the imposter profiles in circulation.  It boggles my mind, that in the context of nearly 50 reports, all having the same name and job in common, that a alarm bell doesn’t go off in the Facebook HQ- like a mix of a Nuclear Reactor meltdown horn and casino slot machine- with a big “WE HAVE A WINNER” strobing light overhead!!

Instead, the image I get is of a hoarder on a reality TV show sitting slumped on a broken recliner that has 5 cats living in it… while a team of cleaners in hazmat suits work around her bagging garbage- and she reaches pathetically out- wiping her red nose with a sodden tissue… “Oh nooooo…. not THAT one… I love that broken ceramic frog planter.” Clutches it to breast weeping.

How can this possibly happen?

Here are the remaining profiles.  Feel free to report them and any others impersonating the general that you find.  Allegedly Facebook does not give any priority to the NUMBER of reports.  It’s not a reverse popularity contest, either the profile is fake or it isn’t and it only needs one report to make it stick- but maybe it’s a matter of WHO gets the report (allegedly there are real people working on this) so maybe there is something to many people filing reports.  Or maybe if this post gets around enough, it will embarrass Facebook enough to do something about the general situation of scammers using stolen military photos for profiles, and fake profiles in general.

Fake #1 profile of John W Nicholson on FB as of 4/13/17 active in 2012
Fake #2 Gen John Nicholson Jnr on FB as of 4/13/17 active in 2014 hitting on many African women.

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Fake #3 John W. Nicholson  on FB as of 4/13/17 (0jr) This profile was posting tons of links to African porn clickbait in February of 2016 linking to LegitNewsDOTinfo- (Legitnews is registered to a Ebie Oghenero UnlessGod in Warri, Nigeria)

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Fake #4 John W. Nicholson on FB as of 4/13/17 (00) linked to a man in Conakry, Guinea
Fake #5 John O Nicholson on FB as of 4/13/17  profile picture dated May 2016

Fake #6 Vargas Sonia (John Nicholson) on FB as of 4/13/17  Active May- Sept  of 2016

 

Comment Spamming “All India Bakchod” (Comedy Group) posts with this loan message:
“Vargas Sonia –  Hello,  Are you looking for a business loan,personal loan,home loan,auto
loan,student loan,debt consolidation loan,unsecured loan,venture
capital etc…OR Were you refused a loan by a bank or any financial institution for one or more reasons.You are in the right place for your loan solutions!
I am a private lender,I grant loans to companies and individuals at a low and affordable interest rate of 2%. Interested? Contact via email perryclementloan@gmail.com for the follow up processing of the loan and
transfer within 48 hours; “

So the next time you are on Facebook feeling compelled to show your support for our Armed Forces… instead of responding to a stupid, forced, commentbaiting meme from some profiteering fake page that was made in a foreign country… how about taking out some bad guys and showing you care about the good guys all in one fell swoop?