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US Officials Made ‘Fake’ Facebook Profiles to Nab Indians

The social network has also contacted the Department of Homeland Security about its policy on fake accounts

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Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

Facebook has said that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) violated its guidelines by creating fake profiles on its platform tied to the University of Farmington — a sham institution that left over 600 students, 90 per cent of them Indians, in detention.

The Facebook profiles were allegedly created by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing aLaw Enforcement Guidelines’ page,” a Facebook representative told the daily.

“Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”

The University of Farmington had a website as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts – but did not have a campus or faculty.

About 600 foreign students had enrolled with the fake university floated by the US authorities under a sting operation. More than 80 per cent of these students were from the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“In a network of suspicious Facebook accounts linked to the University of Farmington, the college’s alleged president, Ali ‘AJ’ Milani, liked the Michigan Jaguars sports club and had a 51-person friend list that was mostly people from South Asia,” the report claimed.

“Carey Ferrante, who did not list any link to the school but had interactions with persons interested in it, posted three photos of herself that were actually stock photos and sent Facebook messages to at least one person,” it added.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

Facebook has now removed the University of Farmington accounts.

Each student had paid $20,000 to $25,000 to get enrolled in the fake university, which recruited students in 26 states across the US.

Confirming that 172 students have been arrested for civil immigration violations in the case, ICE’s north-east regional communications director Khaalid Walls declined to comment on the Facebook accounts.

The social network has also contacted the Department of Homeland Security about its policy on fake accounts.

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The US immigration officials kept 129 Indian students in “administrative detention” and arrested eight recruiters involved with the university.

At least 30 students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana returned from the US in February. They were those who were not detained or served notices by the US authorities in the “pay-to-stay” fake university scam.

The External Affairs Ministry had issued a demarche to the US Embassy in New Delhi asserting that the students “have been duped into enrolling in the ‘university’ (and) should be treated differently from those recruiters who duped them”. (IANS)

Next Story

New Zealand, France Plan in Effort to Stop Promotion of Terrorism, Violent Extremism on Social Media

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook

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FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for the mass shooting.

christchurch attack, new zealand, facebook
Students light candles as they gather for a vigil to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 18, 2019. (VOA)

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism,” Ardern said in the statement.

“This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies,” she added.

The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France’s separate Tech for Good summit, both on 15 May, the statement said.

Ardern said at a press conference later on Wednesday that she has spoken with executives from a number of tech firms including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google and few other companies.

“The response I’ve received has been positive. No tech company, just like no government, would like to see violent extremism and terrorism online,” Ardern said at the media briefing, adding that she had also spoken with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg directly on the topic.

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Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism. VOA

A Facebook spokesman said the company looks forward to collaborating with government, industry and safety experts on a clear framework of rules.

“We’re evaluating how we can best support this effort and who among top Facebook executives will attend,” the spokesman said in a statement sent by email. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism.

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One of the main groups representing Muslims in France has said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet’s Google, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the Christchurch massacre on their platforms.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last month that the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria. (VOA)