Sunday, October 7, 2018

Come on Facebook!
     There is some of fishy goings on these past few days on Facebook. Friends of all kinds are sending me messages telling me that they have gotten a duplicate friend request from me. The implication is that someone has cloned my profile and trying to get access to all my friends. I guess the cloners do this for… well it is not exactly clear. Do they use the cloned me to disseminate false news? Will they eventually make a plea for money to my friends on a fake GoFundMe like site? Maybe, it is a social media rival trying to destabilize Facebook, forcing users to leave Facebook for… and I can’t even think of where I or others would go. Or, are they simply trying to clone everyone and create a parallel Facebook of all cloned profiles? At least this last, low probability at best, option has cool philosophical implications. I would love to be able to check on what my cloned self is up to and how that cloned self is interacting with my clone friends on a parallel Facebook.
     Given that the first message I got from a trusted friend seemed plausible, I took it seriously. I searched to see there was indeed a parallel me on Facebook. I could not find a clone. That was good. So, I googled what to do if I thought my Facebook was either hacked or cloned. Not surprisingly, I was advised to change my password. I did. It was also suggested that I “secure” my account by evoking a “secure my account” dialogue box on Facebook. I did that even though it did not give me any sense that what I was asked to do could possible lead to a more secure account. OK, I idid what I was supposed to do was done.
     The following day, I got more such IMs suggesting that my account was cloned. After getting a few, I noticed that the messages were all the same or a too close in wording to be coincidental. Here is the most common message:

Hi....I actually got another friend request from you yesterday...which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears...then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too....I had to do the people individually. Good Luck! PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW ONE FROM ME AT THIS TIME.
     What else should I do? I copied the above message and googled the whole thing. Yesterday, there were a few news items talking about this being a hoax. The report said that the was not an uptick in people’s accounts being cloned. The reports urged people not to forward these messages as the IMs suggested. Today, googling the same message there are many more news items saying the same thing. Oddly, there was nothing from my favorite reputable news sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsy, or NPR.
     What surprises me is that Facebook has not posted a notice about this. They are obviously working behind the scenes trying to figure this out. I look at my IM icon and it shows 9 new messages and a few seconds later it shows 2 or 0. Clearly, there is some filtering going one. I would think being forthcoming and giving folks status updates would be better than letting people get frustrated about this, forward this hoaxy message, and think about just not using or even quitting Facebook. But then, what do I know? I’m not a Facebook executive.
     In the meantime, please stop sending me these IMs.

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