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Online Deception in Social Media

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Online Deception in Social Media, illustrative photo

Credit: Nomad Soul

Proliferation of web-based technologies has revolutionized the way content is generated and exchanged through the Internet, leading to proliferation of social-media applications and services. Social media enable creation and exchange of user-generated content and design of a range of Internet-based applications. This growth is fueled not only by more services but also by the rate of their adoption by users. From 2005 to 2013, users and developers alike saw a 64% increase in the number of people using social media;1 for instance, Twitter use increased 10% from 2010 to 2013, and 1.2 billion users connected in 2013 through Facebook and Twitter accounts.24 However, the ease of getting an account also makes it easy for individuals to deceive one another. Previous work on deception found that people in general lie routinely, and several efforts have sought to detect and understand deception.20 Deception has been used in various contexts throughout human history (such as in World War II and the Trojan War) to enhance attackers' tactics. Social media provide new environments and technologies for potential deceivers. There are many examples of people being deceived through social media, with some suffering devastating consequences to their personal lives.

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Here, we consider deception as a deliberate act intended to mislead others, while targets are not aware or do not expect such acts might be taking place and where the deceiver aims to transfer a false belief to the deceived.2,9 This view is particularly relevant when examining social media services where the boundary between protecting one's privacy and deceiving others is not morally clear. Moreover, such false beliefs are communicated verbally and non-verbally,14 with deception identifiable through cues, including verbal (such as audio and text), non-verbal (such as body movement), and physiological (such as heartbeat).


William Mitlyng

I think existing on the internet without giving away an entrept to the private details of someone's life. We have telephone accounts hiding the caller. Some writers use a nom d plume for many reasons.

Frankly, I see no reason for a social site to know my street address and telephone number. Out of all users there is some population N hiding their identities. What percentage of N represent efforts to defraud. Con jobs are far older than computing because in America we do not live in a police state.

I can tell you what a treat life was like in the Soviet Union when people carried Dokumenti Identifying you in unpleasant ways. Going to school with the line for Jew filled and having the teacher identify you as a Jew to the class. This is not my experience but someone else's. misrepresenting yourself is very old because some degree of privacy should be expected. Fraud and other crimes involving deception are the cost of a freer society.

Michail Tsikerdekis

You pose an interesting "food for thought" idea which we attempted to partially highlight throughout the article. Deception is a mechanism for protecting one's privacy (e.g., using a Tor network) or even protecting computer systems (e.g., honeypots). Under the definition that we provided, if the victim is not aware of the deception, then deception has taken place regardless of whether the deception itself was meant to protect someone's identity, a computer system, or it was devised with malicious intent.

Obviously, we need to be battling deception with malicious intent while aiming to protect "defensive" deception but it is difficult to differentiate the two. Perhaps there are tell tail signs or this should be a focus for future research as we move forward in deception detection and prevention.

As for social media, should having more information on users be the solution? It all boils down to what we as a society consider as acceptable loss. Historically speaking, even if a culture accepts for example identity deception taking place in a social network, the social network itself could still suffer (which translates to loss in revenue and user base). Myspace is an example of this in my opinion. The counter-example for this is the case of Friendster which was covered in many articles by Boyd. A community that will not accept the needs of the users (in this case the ability to create fake accounts or fakesters) has also hurt the social network itself.

I would personally lean towards deception detection and even more deception prevention techniques. They probably provide a good balance of protecting against malicious deception without having a social media service deal in absolute when it comes to user needs, which is a good HCI practice, especially when it comes to sensitive needs like privacy.

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