Logical Operators Blog
Security

Apathy Over Accuracy: Facebook Puts Your Business At Risk (Again)!

If your business or organization has a Facebook page, you NEED to be aware of this threat and be prepared to act. Your business could suffer disruption, reputation damage, or harassment because of Facebook’s apathy to what is becoming a far more DIRECT problem than the one which has caused their recent advertiser boycott. 

What is this serious threat? Someone falsely claiming to be your employee (employee impersonation). Let’s be clear: the threat detailed below is nothing short of fraud and identity theft that targets your company. 

If you have not yet experienced this threat against your company’s reputation, be forewarned: you can become a victim in a second and you will not know until you suffer the consequences. In the unfortunate event that you have already been hit with this form of attack, then you know what a headache it can be to find yourself unsuspectingly dropped into the midst of a public branding nightmare. Worse yet, Facebook will leave you to fend for yourself, as they provide NO direct method to address the problem. 

Some basic online research shows that this problem has been encountered by others since at least 2008. While Facebook has continued to ignore it, the problem has only grown worse.

THE THREAT WORKS LIKE THIS: 

  • An offender creates a Facebook profile and FALSELY lists YOUR business/organization as his/her employer. 

  • The offender then makes offensive posts on his/her Facebook timeline or makes offensive comments in response to other people’s Facebook posts. These posts/comments may include photos/videos (violence, pornography, etc.) that are equally as offensive as any text comments (hate speech, racial slurs, incitement of violence, etc.) they contribute. You will never know that these posts exist until someone brings them to your attention. These posts will NOT directly involve your business or your Facebook page, but they will soon affect you. 

  • Normal, everyday Facebook users who see these offensive comments and want to identify this person will click/tap the offender’s name (on his/her comments) to see the offender’s profile, where a link to YOUR company’s Facebook page will appear showing your company’s name and logo as the offender’s employer

  • Believing they are attacking the offender’s source of income, these Facebook users will follow the link to YOUR company’s Facebook page and begin sending you negative feedback

  • Some Facebook users may innocently post YOUR company’s contact info as a response to the offender's post/comment with a statement such as “Let’s get this guy fired – here’s where he works!” This only serves to further associate your business with the offensive content. 

  • At best, you will receive private messages to your business’s Facebook page asking if the offender works for your company. Usually accompanied by screenshots of the offensive content, here are some examples of the best possible feedback you can hope to receive: “Does this person really work for you?” “How could you hire someone like this?” “Are you aware of your employee’s statements?” ”How can your company support someone with these beliefs?”

  • More commonly, your company’s Facebook page will start receiving publicly-visible “{Facebook User} does not recommend {Your Company Name}” reviews (if you have recommendations enabled for your page). These negative reviews will usually be accompanied by remarks that denounce the comments made by the offender, attributing them to your staff or business. The offended person posting the negative review of your business may also threaten/promise to publicize (through other media) the types of people who supposedly work for your company. 

  • In the worst cases, the Facebook users who really want to make an example out of the offender’s claimed employer (that’s YOUR business) will seek out your public contact information and call, email, or harass you and your staff. They may post on other social media platforms or contact local media/business associations to attempt to further publicize your company’s apparent association with the offender’s posts/comments. 

  • Regardless of the level of feedback, you will spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to deflect the negative comments that come your way. Note: this negative feedback may last for some time, as users may encounter the offensive Facebook content and decide to act against the offender’s supposed employer (again, YOUR company) over the course of several days, weeks, or longer. 

  • Of course, you’ll need to battle this threat in real time, since every minute you don’t address it is another minute that your company’s reputation is being publicly damaged online

  • With every new comment/post the offender makes, this process has an opportunity to repeat. 

 

HOW DO YOU GET FACEBOOK TO STOP THIS? GOOD LUCK! 

At first, you will become angry for the unwarranted and unwelcome attack on your business caused by someone who is unassociated with you and is essentially anonymous. Not only is your reputation being damaged with every offensive post/comment attributed to the offending profile, but also, instead of running your business, you are now forced to spend time and energy trying to deflect the attacks from numerous well-meaning (albeit misled) Facebook users. These users are firmly convinced that their misplaced anger is helping to bring justice to a troublemaker who posts disgusting content and you may have difficulty convincing them that the offender is merely posing as your employee.

One would think it would be a simple matter to report the offender’s profile to Facebook and have it removed (or at least have the profile’s employment record corrected). This is where you will be shocked to learn that Facebook does not provide an adequate way to report this type of fraud and therefore, they WILL NOT act upon the fraudulent profile. You are on your own to deal with the fallout regardless of the cost or damage to your business. 

You’ll probably visit every stop on this dead-end road while attempting to address this issue with Facebook: 

  • NOTE: Exercise caution in any direct communication you attempt with the offender: you may open yourself to additional attacks by the offender and his/her Facebook friends through direct responses to you or your business. The offender may also block you from viewing his/her profile to make it even more difficult for you to trace his/her actions.

  • You will attempt to contact the offender via private message asking for the profile’s employment record to be corrected. After all, it is possible he/she made an honest mistake when setting up the profile, right? Your request will be ignored. 

  • You will post a notification to the offender’s Facebook timeline (if they have allowed others to post on their timeline) denying any association with your company, but your post will be deleted by the offender. 

  • You may post responses to the offensive comments (assuming you can locate those comments from any screenshots you have received) stating that you have no relationship with the offender. Your comments will likely be lost in a sea of negative responses to the offender. You may also unintentionally draw more unwelcome attention to your business through additional retaliation in replies to your responses. 

  • You will locate the offender’s profile, click the “…” menu button on the profile picture, and select the “Find support or report profile” option. You will be shown several buttons from which you are required to choose the type of report you would like to make. At this point, you’ll become overwhelmingly and simultaneously shocked and angry at the lack of feedback and control allowed by Facebook... 

  • If you choose “Pretending to be someone,” then you are forced to select from another set of buttons: “Me,” “A Friend,” or “A Celebrity.” These buttons are your only options - you cannot type anything to specify the actual problem. Obviously, the offender isn’t pretending to be YOU, so if you choose this option, Facebook will simply report back to you that the profile is NOT impersonating you. If you choose “A Friend,” you will be forced to choose WHICH of your Facebook friends the offender is impersonating; unless he/she is impersonating another Facebook profile, Facebook will once again report that impersonation is not taking place. And of course, it is equally useless to claim that the person is impersonating a celebrity. The Facebook reviewers will take one look at the NAME on the offender’s profile and state that the offender is not impersonating anyone else. 

  • If you choose “Fake Account,” Facebook will also respond that they see nothing wrong with the profile. Facebook has no way to verify a person’s employment information, so they assume it is accurate. 

  • If you choose “Fake Name,” Facebook will respond that they see nothing wrong with the profile (because the profile will have a realistic name). 

  • Choosing to report a profile for “Posting Inappropriate Things,” is equally pointless. You will be instructed to report a specific post or status update, neither of which has anything to do with your company being inappropriately referenced as an employer by the offender’s profile. Even if a post or status update is removed by Facebook, all the offender must do is post/comment again and the negative feedback cycle starts anew. 

  • You will politely contact every person who has complained to you and explain that you have no relationship to the person in the offensive profile. You may ask these people to assist in your efforts to have the offending profile removed/banned by reporting to Facebook any offensive comments/posts they have seen from this “fake employee.” Again, this might result in the actual comments/posts being removed by Facebook, but this will do nothing to correct the profile’s falsified employment record

  • After spending several hours of searching online for telephone numbers, email addresses, online forms, or other solutions to contact Facebook with a detailed description of your VERY VALID complaint, you’ll discover that Facebook simply doesn’t have a direct means of contact and they DO NOT have a way for you to provide a detailed TEXTUAL description of your problem

  • Completely frustrated, you’ll eventually post on Facebook’s Help Community page (https://www.facebook.com/help/community) hoping that someone has a solution. However, any response you get there will be a generic “how to report a fake profile” answer that sends you back to the top of this list. 

  • In the event someone posts a “does not recommend” (negative recommendation) to your Facebook business page, you do have the option to click the “…” menu on the recommendation and request Facebook to remove it. However, according to Facebook’s help page (https://www.facebook.com/help/439579999521224you can’t do this for recommendations that contain only star ratings, so you’ll be stuck with any one-star-only ratings that don’t contain comments. If Facebook DOES remove a “does not recommend,” post from your business page, they still won’t correct the employment record on the offending profile (or remove the offending profile). This lack of attention to detail by Facebook to correct/remove the inaccurate profile holds true EVEN IF you have described the offender’s false employment information in your public response to the negative recommendation! 

  • You may choose to remove the visibility of your company’s Facebook page or disable recommendations. If you take these steps, you’ve essentially sacrificed the time, money, and effort you’ve spent creating, publicizing, and cultivating your Facebook presence. Depending upon how critical your business/organization’s Facebook page is to your daily operations, this could potentially be as devastating to your business as the COVID-19 shutdown has been to small retail stores. Congratulations, the offender has won! 

 

WHY IS THIS FACEBOOK’S RESPONSIBILITY? 

To add insult to injury, review Facebook’s Community Standards page for Misrepresentation (https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/misrepresentation) and you’ll quickly realize that Facebook pays only lip service to their requirement that users are not engaged in “creating inauthentic profiles.” 

If you have a company Facebook page, you should note that Facebook does NOT notify you for verification when someone claims to be your employee. This is an amazingly naïve practice, especially for a company that forces you to confirm family relationships on personal profiles. 

Moreover, there is no straightforward way for you to search Facebook to find all people who claim to work for your business. Of course, as previously detailed, even if you do locate a profile falsely claiming to be that of your employee, you are powerless to have it changed/removed.  

Obviously, YOU DON’T NEED A COMPANY FACEBOOK PAGE to fall victim to this kind of impersonation. If an offender simply lists your company as their employer anywhere (even offline) and offends someone, you and your staff could be targeted via phone calls, emails, online platforms, and in-person harassment. A falsified Facebook profile is not even necessary for someone to accuse your company of employing offensive people. However, the fact that Facebook publicly (and falsely) displays your company’s name/logo and links directly to your company’s Facebook page from the offender’s profile without verification tremendously magnifies the extent and ease of the attack. Given Facebook’s size and scope, it is UNTHINKABLE that YOUR legitimate company has no way to stop this misuse of your own name and logo on Facebook's platform. 

The underlying problem is that Facebook allows this fraud to be perpetuated by failing to provide a solution for your business/organization, innocently caught in the middle, to access adequate security, verification, or reporting controls. With the proper controls in place, your company could deny the offender’s claimed employment record prior to any negative actions that would reflect against your company. 

 

IS THERE ANY HOPE OF GETTING FACEBOOK TO ADDRESS THIS THREAT? 

Our business recently suffered this type of attack. Thankfully (for us) after a few days of complete disruption, the offender suddenly changed the employer name on his/her Facebook profile to that of another local company. That was good for us, but that action simply altered the target of the fraud. The threat has not been removed, just transferred to another innocent business victim. In the meantime, the offender continues to freely post and comment offensive material on Facebook while fraudulently appearing to be associated with a company for which he/she has no true association.

Don’t misunderstand: our company is in favor of free speech within our system of laws. We are not advocating censorship. However, we are completely OPPOSED to fraud and misrepresentation, especially when they cause damage to another’s property or reputation. Just as there are laws by which we all agree to abide in society, Facebook has policies by which all its users agree to abide when they use the service.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Facebook needs to address this situation IMMEDIATELY with better security, notification, verification, and reporting controls for businesses coupled with internal measures to enforce its own policies. That may not happen without significant pressure from the companies and organizations who stand to suffer the most from this outrageous problem. 

What do you do about the time, money, and manpower you have wasted to clear your company’s name and restore your online reputation when you were not involved with the offense or the offender? Don’t expect Facebook to compensate you for that or to correct the inaccurate information! Without Facebook’s assistance, you can’t even prove WHO is behind the employee impersonation. Understandably, a court order is required to personally identify any offender who opens a falsified account (assuming Facebook possesses any accurate information about the offender). Depending on the amount of damage your business sustains from such a problem, you may need to contact law enforcement and/or file suit against the offender and/or Facebook to recover any damages.

To date, Facebook has chosen apathy over accuracy, has ignored its responsibility of enforcing its own Community Standards, and has left its most valuable customers (business users) open to significant liability from this form of fraud and identity theft. 

It’s easy to imagine the next iteration of this threat: a criminal posing as your employee on Facebook contacting potential/current customers to collect funds, requesting access to confidential information, or performing other nefarious acts in your company’s name. Ask yourself: “Is it acceptable to have NO avenue to address this quickly and directly with Facebook?” 

Given the new security and business risks appearing online every day, you would be wise to formulate a game plan to address this threat before this happens to your business or organization

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