It seems as though the noose is tightening around Facebook pages that are run by a overlooked-until-now dodgy practice.
Many people in the past created a separate work profile. They did this because they wanted to keep work and play separate. Often this second account just had the word ‘work’ added to it.
How this dodgy practice works
So John Smith had his ‘John Smith’ account. He also created ‘John Smith Work’ as a way of logging onto the corporate page. Cunning, yes?
Well, not that cunning at all. Not least because it is obvious even to Inspector Clouseau that this is a second account. And before you dash-off to create thinking a John Brown account is an even safer bet don’t. But Brown, you think. That’s not my name. They’ll never guess. Actually, Facebook are really good at spotting through an algorithm accounts with few friends that just happen to be a page admin.
Why Facebook are doing this
You may have noticed but Facebook and others have been getting it in the neck for their role in ‘fake news’. Governments don’t like them. Nor do users. Accounts that are clearly fake are the first steps to tackle this. The platform have agreed to act. Fake users are first in the queue.
But you’re blue in the face
Of course, the wise people know that they need to change. They’ve even argued for the need to. Many have persuaded people that this is the best course of action.
But even then some people don’t want to change.
The common arguments are:
I don’t want people from work being my friends.
I’d rather keep work and family seperate.
I won’t add my real Facebook profile.
In the olden days, they may have had a point. But no-one can see who is the admin of a page. You don’t have to accept friend requests.
An approach: It’s time to get serious
I’ve noticed a very heated debate on the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group flagging up the issue.
Firstly, tell are admins you want your page not to break Facebook’s terms and conditions. Tell them their access may be removed without warning. This is an issue if you all have fake John Smith Work accounts. Tell people you are moving everyone to Facebook Business Manager. You’ll need a profile. It just makes the day-to-day tasks easier.
If people still say no, you may have to trim down the number of admins who are effectively posing a risk to your page. If some people don’t want to, they may just have to have ‘managing Facebook pages’ off their CV.
Go and tell the person in your organisation who is responsible for information governance of the broader issue. See what they think. They’ll agree with you.
Go and tell the emergency planning team what they think. They’ll agree with you, too.
Take these opinions, this blog and your opinion to your manager, manager’s manager and chief executive if you have to. Set out to them in writing the reasons why ‘fake’ profiles are a danger to your organisation. If you have to, list the people who have fake profiles in your organisation. List the people who don’t. Explain that you need everyone to either have a real profile or be taken off admin to the Facebook page.
You have flagged-up the risk.
You have shared the risk.
When Facebook catch you – note, not ‘if’ but ‘when’ – you have an audit trail without which you’ll be pretty exposed. Who knows. The process may even get some movement.
It sounds drastic, but it’s not as drastic as access to your corporate Facebook page being lost overnight.
Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.
You need to think about fake news.
Not the click-bait churned out by Moldovan teenagers in their bedrooms but the stuff on your neighbourhood Facebook group or page and newspaper comments page.
Around the village, estate, town or city where you live and work there are scores of groups and pages. On the internet, it’s often where people hang out. Hyperlocal blogs have been hailed as the new frontier. True, there are some cracking ones. But it is to Facebook groups where a huge chunk of audience has gone. Almost unnoticed.
Look for stats on groups online and you are struggling. Why? Because Facebook would like to direct you to the highly monetised Facebook pages where there is an abundance of data. Look for data on groups?
So,you’ll have to go digging yourself.
Search your own groups
It’s simple. Go to Facebook. Search for a place. Search again in groups. Have a search ion pages too. A recent project at an urban borough found more than 3,000 pages and groups searching by town and community. Some had only one person. Others had 15,000.
Run your own search. You’ll be amazed. Seriously.
Facebook pages and newspaper comments
And let’s not forget that newspaper comment boxes are there and the public actions very often have thriving Facebook pages too. Let’s be honest, often there is a whiff of mob rule on them and caution is advised.
But you need to engage
If newspaper comment boxes are a bridge to far I think we should be starting with Facebook groups. I’ve talked about the need to engage on them before. It’s a simple premise. Go to where the eyeballs are. If they are talking about you, go there.
Some of it is true. Some of it is false.
Time after time these past few months I’ve reached the same conclusion. The fact that the public sector is not by and large engaging in these places is deeply corrosive. The fact that some organisations are starting to is a useful step.
Fake news ‘be very, very, very worried.’
This isn’t a new thing. Rumour and misinformation have been going on since the days of cave drawings. Globally, the issue is massive. At News Rewired in London last week journalism academic Claire Wardle told us to be ‘very, very, very worried.’
Why is this particularly worrying? Because as Wardle says, we have learned to be sceptical about words. We are far less sceptical about images and are hugely trusting about video. She argues that we need to have the same scepticism about our emotional response as we do in other areas of our life.
As the Edelman Trust Barometer says, we are far more trusting of ‘people like us’ and will take on what they say or our Facebook friends say than a chief executive.
Types of Parish pump fake news
Here’s two types to look at.
Misinformation. It’s well intentioned but wrong. Back when I was in Walsall, a Muslim girl tweeted that she’d heard a Muslim boy had been stabbed by an EDL-sympathising Sikh gang. It was wrong. A West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable was quick to state there had been no reports.
Or it’s the rumour that polling stations were closed early in the Scottish Independence Referendum.
Disinformation. It’s wrong and it’s circulated knowing that it’s wrong. That’s the malicious council-bating. Like the humorous but entirely false story of the car park attendant at Bristol Zoo. Or the photoshopped shark in the floods.
There’s a whole sub-area of family court driven disinformation. The false claim of a child abduction in Surrey that from time-to-time re-emerges. This isn’t unique.
So, is your Facebook group filled with ‘fake news’?
No. Damage isn’t the prime reason they are there. For the most part Facebook groups are community minded and more interested in people find a plumber or posting the picture of the lovely sunset. They are an excellent opportunity for you to engage with real people.
Can the Parish Facebook group be more dangerous than a national far right news site? Not on it’s own, no. But in that community? I’d argue a rogue post has huge potential to cause you damage in that community.
I’ve heard the argument, well made by Euan Semple, that there is a volume control on the mob and we should avoid it. I can sympathise with that. But I don’t think the public sector has that luxury anymore.
If conversations are taking place in dark corners on the web,
So how to engage?
Engaging on Facebook groups
- Join groups with your own profile as yourself.
- Approach admins from your own profile and ask politely if they can post your engaging sharable content things for you. Make the content you are asking relevant. A history event to entice a group interested in local history, for example.
- Build your relationships with the admin and the people on the group too.
- Remember you are representing your organisation.
- You don’t have to engage with every online conversation.
Engaging on Facebook pages
- You can comment on Facebook pages as your own Facebook page.
Engaging on online newspaper comment boxes
- Add comments as a named individual. Be human. Signpost. Add a link.
Look, none of this is easy. Some of it you may balk at. But it needs to be done.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.
Picture credit: Andrew Feinberg / Flickr