How to combat phony Facebook profiles

Companies, Army generals and a city zoo battle the problem of false identities in social media.

Oshkosh, Wisc., has a Facebook problem.

A cyber Grinch created a phony Facebook page for the city zoo and was sabotaging its annual Celebration of Lights, which runs from November to early January.

“It was purely malicious,” says city information technology director Tony Neumann. “They were periodically posting that it was closed, and they were indicating free admission this night or that night, which wasn’t the case.”

Oshkosh isn’t alone is its battle—unsuccessful, so far—to take down the bogus Facebook site. Imposters are using Facebook and other digital media to undermine organizations and smear the reputations of everyone from CEOs to four-star generals.

Satirists have famously created social media identities to tweak celebrities and politicians like Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel. But there is a dark side to false profiles that isn’t limited to the bullying of teenagers. The practice thrives in a netherworld where con artists scam others or conduct smear campaigns.

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