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Stay safe online, avoid fake friends

Updated: May 27, 2019

Note: This article was originally published in my Monthly Mashup, a fun newsletter sent to leaders and salespeople on my email list. Subscribe free at -MAC

Protect your network

People are your greatest resource. Your online network is one of your most valuable assets. Stay safe online.

In the old days of social media, people friended almost everyone. Today, the Internet is crawling with sketchy characters. Some of these folks are pretending to be someone else. Some of these people aren’t people at all.

If you carelessly friend people online, you not only introduce drama into your life, but you introduce drama to your other online friends. Here are some tips for staying safe online.

Do some homework

If you want quality relationships, it helps to understand which of your connections are actually people.

Go “three clicks deep” into all friend requests just to make sure you’re friending a legitimate person.

Like you, probably, I’m active on tons of platforms, including:

It takes a little time to do extra research on casual friend requests, but staying safe online is worth it. These dubious personalities can cause a lot of trouble later on.

With just a few extra clicks, you can easily discover if a person is over-zealous with their brand or whatever they’re promoting.

I highly recommend avoiding people who are overtly political, even if your views align. Politics is a constant threat to civil communication. I used to give politicos the benefit of the doubt about whether they would behave themselves on my timeline, but no more.

These days, many friend requests are from bots. Marketing companies called “click farms” generate tons of fake online identities a day. These kinds of “connections” are never good news. The people behind this activity have agendas ranging from advertising to influencing elections and other forms of public opinion.

And the fake friend industry is becoming very lifelike. Now, new technology makes it easy to create realistic videos of people saying and doing things they’ve never said or done.

Creators of “deepfake” videos simply feed a trove of photos of a person into an app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to combine the source images. Click here to see comedian Jordan Peele demonstrate a “deep fake” using a video of former President Barack Obama.

Voices can be faked using the same basic process.

Only you can prevent fake friends

Social media is still quite safe in most cases, but it’s a good idea to check the feed and About Page of potential new friends.

Make sure that there’s some “human-like” content there before friending and even then, stay alert for strange behavior.

Facebook is infamous for a bug in their Messenger software that allows infidels to hijack your FB profile if you reply to the message–even if it’s from someone you know.

Most social media ills can be cured by resetting your password or tightening your privacy settings.

You, it turns out, will be your worst enemy, when it comes to avoiding fake friends.

Remember people who share friends with you are not necessarily, um, people.

Feel free to share your best tips for staying safe online in comments below.

If you’re into digital marketing, check out my blog post on why your About page isn’t about you.

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