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False Accounts


A few days ago, I was reading about how marketers are now starting to use social networking sites to their own ends. Self-promotion is a large part of what such sites are about. For example, I can see myself making more use of The Elusive Teeth’s spot on MySpace with the results of recording we have been working on (either selling limited edition CDs or creating an avenue for bookings at new venues). Until there is some purpose like that, I can’t find a lot of motivation to grapple with the ugly and obstructive HTML code that makes up a MySpace profile.

However, that would be straightforward self-representation. In some cases, large companies have created imaginary characters and injected them into the sites as if they were real people. They make lots of contacts, interact in the network and, if you are suspicious, you might notice that they seem to feature a particular company or profile rather a lot in their profile.

Last week, Flickr were alerted to one such fake user (read the details on Read / Write Web), which has subsequently been terminated. However, to their credit, they did open this up for some discussion rather than zapping the account immediately (even though it was in breach of their stated terms and conditions).

Opinions varied, although many users were very disconcerted at the idea of marketing bots masquerading as real users. I do not like the idea at all (which is why I have avoided mentioning the offending company directly) but they have succeeded in making me think about their brand, perhaps softening me up for other advertising thrusts. I deplore it but think such ploys are inevitable.

Things have moved on a long way from 1993 but the golden rule still stands: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

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