Facebook to notify users of impersonating profiles

The social network is testing a new tool to scan profiles and flag imitations, which will then be reviewed by Facebook’s team.

Social network says the alerts are part of efforts to make women feel safer using the website

Facebook is testing a 'troll detection' engine that will scan its 1.6 billion users for accounts impersonating others, and flag up imitations. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Facebook is currently testing a new feature that will send out automatic alerts to users it thinks are being impersonated.

The site will flag imitations of profile photos and names, which will then be reviewed by Facebook's team.

Targeted users will be prompted to identify whether the profile that's been marked is an impersonation or not. 

The feature is now live in almost 75 per cent of the world, Facebook's head of global safety Antigone Davis told Mashable.

Davis said the impersonation alerts are part of efforts to make women around the world feel safer using Facebook. 

Studies have found women between the ages of 18 and 24 face online harassment at disproportionately high levels.

"It's a real point of concern for some women in certain regions of the world where it [impersonation] may have certain cultural or social ramifications," Davis said.

Copying another user's profile is forbidden under the company's "real names" policy. Since its launch, the company has maintained that profiles be made with real names and not pseudonyms or other names a person may use.

"We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you're connecting with," Facebook's policy page says.
Facebook will send an alert to the suspected target of the impersonation, asking if the account is real or fake. (Facebook)

Over the years, the tech giant has faced criticism for lacking an adequate mechanism to deal with imitators. In its 2014 annual report, Facebook said fake accounts made up 5.5 to 11.2 per cent of its 1.3 billion monthly active users. 

As of the fourth quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.6 billion monthly active users, according to Statista.

In continued recent efforts to address online harassment, the social network has been hosting a series of roundtables around the world with activists, NGOs and other groups to gather feedback on how the platform can better address issues around privacy and safety.

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