Dynamist Blog

Facebook Impersonators

A disturbing account by impersonation-victim Matthew Herper of Forbes.com:

For months somebody (I don't know who) has been running a Facebook profile that bears my name, my personal information and several photos of me.

An old high school friend had connected with the faker, instead of me. Several of the people with whom fake Matt is friends also appeared to be fakes, including a copycat of Vertex Pharmaceuticals founder and chief executive Joshua Boger. (Boger has a real Facebook profile but isn't friends with me. He declined to comment on the fakesters.) I couldn't see this Fake Matt's profile myself, even by searching for my name.

This pretender was one of 100 impersonators of scientists, journalists and science policy wonks uncovered by Lucas Laursen, a reporter at Nature, the scientific journal. Most of the people who were copied are somehow linked to the biotech industry, and many are linked to the especially controversial field of embryonic stem cell research. Ruth McKernan, chief scientific officer of Pfizer's regenerative medicine unit is on the list; so was University of Wisconsin bioethicist Alta Charo, whose thinking about stem cells has been hugely influential. (See the Nature article.)

Read the whole thing. (The Nature article is, unfortunately, seriously gated.) Facebook, like many Internet sites, runs partly on technology but largely on trust. Erode that trust and people won't use it.

Also, I have been wondering for a long time whether the Norma McCorvey on my long and eclectic FB friends list is the real woman from Roe v. Wade or an impersonator. Either way, she's claiming she just had to reset her password.

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