Think you can believe what you see on social media?
Ask Trey Ratcliff, Robert Mueller and Mark Zuckerberg about that.
All three pretty much confirmed the answer to the question this week.
The photographer Ratcliff released a new book in which he details how easy it was to create a fake Instagram account and game it with bought followers, likes and comments, in return for offers of cash, free trips and goods. The book’s title: “Under the Influence – How to Fake Your Way Into Getting Rich on Instagram: Influencer fraud, Selfies, Anxiety, Ego, and Mass Delusional Behavior.”
Then the “Mueller Report,” the look into possible Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential campaign, was finally released, albeit with redactions and It zeroed in on how the Russians played social media to sell their preferred candidate Donald Trump to the public, through false statements and reports.
And in the latest admission about things that were way worse than originally seemed, it emerged that Zuckerberg and his Facebook had stored “millions” of unencrypted Instagram users passwords on Facebook servers. Facebook had originally said it was just “tens of thousands.”
How safe is your personal information with the social network?
I think we know the answer.
But let’s take a look at Instagram, the site of happy people who look beautiful, take great, expensive vacations, have lots of friends and lead a better life than you do, or so it seems. The site is ripe with “influencers,” people like the Kardashians, Zach King and Andrew Bachelor, whose sponsored posts usually showcases them with products in their hands.
According to Ratcliff, some $2 billion was spent on influencer marketing in 2017, a number he says will grow to $10 billion by 2020.
Ratcliff, himself a social media “influencer,” with over 5 million followers, mostly from his popular Stuck in Customs blog, says Facebook and Instagram, which the social media titan owns, “create a false narrative that makes the rest of us feel like losers,” so he set out to expose it, in the hopes that changes would start to be made.
After showing how easy it is to buy followers, likes and comments from sites, Ratcliff is hopeful that Facebook will eventually see the light and clean up its act.
“Otherwise, we’re sitting on top of this false economy where you can’t believe anything you see, and people feel they don’t add up,” he says.
Instagram says that services that offer to boost an account’s popularity via inauthentic likes, comments and followers “aren’t allowed” and “we’re developing technology to remove this activity from Instagram.”
But clearly there’s a cottage industry online to buy the fake followers and such, from companies such as Buzzoid ($39.99 for 5,000 followers—”We will give you the likes and followers you deserve and help you grow your social presence!”) or Buzzdayz ($55 for 15,000 followers)
Despite what happened with Ratcliff, and the offers of free products and travel for his fake account, on Medium writer Areej Younes points out that in the long run, the fake followers won’t really help grow the channel.
“You are simply buying fake and empty likes. There are no organic or real followers behind these accounts. It is just a number. Resorting to this tactic will ultimately keep you in the trap of buying likes for every piece of content you post because you’re obviously going to keep up the image of popularity on your posts.”
But clearly many people are doing it and getting away with it. Is your life as happy and great looking as your friends on Instagram?
In other tech news this week
Samsung: Arguably, the most innovative tech product of the year is the Samsung Fold, a new $1,980 phone that opens up into a tablet for the biggest smartphone screen we’ve seen to date. There’s only one little problem. The phone is fragile, and has already been broken by reviewers from the likes of CNBCand The Verge. This is less than three years after a scandal involving the thrice-recalled, and eventually discontinued, Galaxy Note 7 and its exploding batteries.
Making up: Amazon and Google dropped their cold war this week. Google’s YouTube will soon be available again on the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon branded Fire TV Edition television sets, while Amazon Prime video will be accessible on the Google Chromecast streaming dongle and Android TVs. Additionally, in the middle of a big lawsuit, Apple and chipmaker Qualcomm settled their spat, and now Qualcomm has agreed to make high-powered chips for upcoming Apple iPhones. Samsung and LG have already announced that they are using Qualcomm’s chips in their respective, upcoming Galaxy S10 5G and V50 ThinQ 5G phones. In response to the Apple news, chip rival Intel said it would drop out of the 5G modem business.
More with Amazon and Google. The companies, which make the popular Echo and Google Home speakers, announced free music deals for their customers. Echo owners can now access free ad-supported music, and Google Home fans can get ad-free music from YouTube Music. Google’s deal goes a little further, in that the songs are available to any Google branded speaker, which includes the brands JBL, Sony and Harman. Songs aren’t available on-demand with Echo or Home, but instead you can listen to playlists and/or stations based on a request.
We had an interview with a ghost this week, well, more like an encounter with one, in holographic form, when we caught up with a laser-projected video of the late rocker Roy Orbison at a studio in Los Angeles. The occasion was to plug the fall tour featuring holograms of Orbison and the late Buddy Holly on stage with a rock band. Odd? For sure. Check out this snippet from a jam session with the hologram.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
That’s it for this week’s Talking Tech wrap. Listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast, and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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