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Why fake profiles can significant harm and how to spot them

Author: Matthew Tukaki, Chair of the National Maori Authority

Over the course of the last few months we have seen the rise of an ever increasing number of people who have become emboldened to display their views on race and Maori in public and across social media platforms. There are those that are obvious and show their faces for all to see – they use their real names and whatever we might think about the words they speak or the things that they say they are identifiable – in other words you know they are real people. But here is the thing – you then have a considerable, and growing number, of people who are not as they seem; they are not real and the social media profiles they stand up are, for a want of a better way of describing it, fake.

Now, we have all known that there are fake profiles and quite honestly we also know that this has been a thing for many decades and pre-dates the rise of social media. Take for example talk back radio where people would ring in, go to town on an issue and use a made up name. There was even the case where the current Mayor of the Far North District Council called a talk back radio show and pretended to be a Maori man called “Hone”.

But step forward to today and the rise of fake profiles has taken a very concerning path – those who are pretending to Maori, or pretending to be someone of colour and who then use those profiles to pretend to be on the side of the person who is mounting arguments against Maori or people of colour – and those fake profiles are often being run by the very people mounting the arguments. These fake profiles and keyboard warriors have become so emboldened they are using Maori sounding names, using photos that appear to be of Maori culture and even some who are using fake photos or avatars. This leads the casual observer to believe they are dealing with the real deal – a real person when in fact they are fake.

In the process this fake profile begins to infect your network of friends by firstly sending you a connection request or a friend request. If you are public figure they follow your page. Once they do this they begin to friend your friends, friend your family members and so begins the process of infiltration. Soon after they begin to post comments in response to your posts and then openly target your friends and family list.

So sophisticated have they become they may never post a specific comment – they instead will reply to a comment knowing full well you may not be able to use the ban feature to ban them from the page. In other words they try every way possible to coerce people to believe they are someone that they are not.

At the end of the day the Modis operands is always the same – spread dis-information, discredit and cause chaos all while hiding behind a series of fake profiles. So here is my advice to you all:

1. If you don’t know someone think twice about accepting the friend request or connection

2. If the account does not have real “person” photos don’t accept them – and not just one photo, make sure they have photos of the same person. To check you can always run the image through the Google image search

Rule of thumb – if it looks fake and smells fake it ain’t a duck it’s a snake.

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