Discuss: Fake 'avatars' In Social Media
Posted 25 July 2008 - 05:57 PM
Fake avatars/fake accounts/fake friends.... in social media
What's your take?
Seriously now, I want to understand how this could ever be an ethical strategy.
Sure you can have a different icon - cartoons, logos, etc. but having a fake personality behind it, or it being a bot - how is that ethical?
Enlighten me please!
Posted 25 July 2008 - 06:53 PM
However suppose a business wants to create a personality who will write an ongoing blog to its clients. Let us call her Mary Worth. There will be perhaps two or three ghost writers, who will write the posts for Mary Worth. Mary Worth is fictitious but becomes real through the postings on her blog. Is that allowable behavior? Does the question of ethics come into this at all?
Posted 25 July 2008 - 06:58 PM
It really depends upon the circumstances - where, how, and why it is used. And the perspective of the viewer.
Obviously, I am not a kitten in a hammock. As you mention there is no ambiguity - just as there is none in DoshDosh's anime. So what is left to know about me is what I say, how I say it, how consistent I am, etc. and you each get to make a decision: just how real and honest is iamlost. Yes, even my name is disguised. Ethical?
My daughter as I have mentioned before, and many of her friends, used to (and to some extent probably still do) create multiple online personas - gender, sexual preference, false compatible pics and story lines and play head games on MySpace and other SM sites. Ethical?
There are an aweful lot of absolutely stunning Playboy qualified women on SM sites. Really? Not. Are they put up by kids playing games, marketers, dirty old whatevers? Does one rank the ethics?
And of course the notorious aimclear SEOmoz article - which as I've said before (I feel like a stuck record sometimes) is nothing much he hasn't said before but this time, because of personal aspersions made and certain tabloid background noise, this time more folks got upset than said cool trick.
All those TV product endorsements - how many of those 'stars' really truly use the product they're hyping? how many of those 'housewife' avatar actresses?
Whose ethics shall we use to draw a line in the shifting sand? Yours? Mine? Marty's?
Some advertising council's? Which one?
Consumer legislation? Which jurisdiction? For which niche/industry?
It is not that I disagree with your concern. I suspect our feelings on this matter, our personal ethical positions, are quite similar. It is just that I always end up with more questions than answers - as you already have read.
Unless SM sites individually and collectively set - and enforce - standards the pollution, already bad, will get worse. And bang thud, we run hard up against online privacy issues. And none of the proposed id schemes actually solve personal privacy or persona pollution.
All of which is one very big reason that I appreciate the Cre8 community. I, you, we, all care. I guess my ethics fit well with the behaviour of others here. Certainly better here than elsewhere.
Despite hiding behind a kitten and an alias.
Posted 25 July 2008 - 07:42 PM
If we had opened up a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, and found nothing but broken glass and rocks inside, then THAT would have been unethical. But if we found cake mix, then did it matter than Betty wasn't real?
I have two sites that I've chosen to create under a non-DazzlinDonna persona. I have my reasons. Being unethical is not one of those reasons. I've created excellent sites (imo), but chose to embody them with a persona in the same way Betty Crocker embodied that line of products.
Can fake personas be ethical? I say yes.
Can fake personas be unethical? I say yes.
Can real personas be ethical? I say yes.
Can real personas be unethical? I say yes.
It is only unethical if it is unethical. Otherwise, it is not.
And there you have my thoughts.
Posted 25 July 2008 - 11:38 PM
This is a good discussion.
I'll add to Donna and Barry's examples 2 very famous ones:
Dear Abby-type columns often authored by multiple people under one persona.
Well-known juvenile literature series like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, written via multiple authors under a single nom de plume.
Many readers will definitely be fooled into thinking that the personae are real, single individuals. And, upon discovering the reverse, some will feel fooled, let down, annoyed.
Don't believe everything you read surely didn't hatch in a vacuum!
I think your question brings up a deeper one.
Is the Internet real?
If you work on the web, chances are, you are prone to viewing it all as 'real' simply because you know that you acquire real clients that way, do real work for them and earn real money. All of us here may be somewhat influenced by this experience in a way that others aren't.
For some people, the Internet isn't much more than a giant video game that they are playing, and taking on roles may be part of their idea of fun. It's not mine, but it may be theirs.
I don't have a problem with people using noms de plume. I think using fake avatars is a strange idea, but where it becomes unsavory is when the reason for doing so is to trick people in order to make some type of gain from deceiving them. That doesn't sit well with me.
So, I agree with the sentiment that intent is a deciding factor here, and would add that we are really talking about whether or not the web should be seen as real life.
Posted 26 July 2008 - 03:26 AM
How would you measure intent? You'll need some kind of yard stick, and I think that will have to be an ethics/moral code in this instance. Once we agree on that (HA!) we can then measure and rank "good" intentions and "bad" intentions.
It all comes down to "intent".
So when we talk about ethics, someone should step forward and define ethical behaviour and also tell us what's not ethical.
Posted 26 July 2008 - 06:57 AM
Suppose, I've just published a post under a name of our developer, who's better off developing, than writing, formatting and posting articles (he did give me an idea, provide source code and screenshots, though). Is this unethical? Why?
Now, what if I were writing articles about (language) development without outside assistance, with advice, if implemented, could lead to disasters, that surely would've been unethical at best.
Posted 26 July 2008 - 07:12 AM
Is it ethical? -- Hmmm prolly not.
Is it to be expected? -- Hmmm oh yeah.
Should people care with a vengeance? -- Only if they like to wallow in disappointment.
Posted 26 July 2008 - 09:16 AM
There are a few further questions to ask concerning degrees of intent: First, whether the information is available to determine the real identity concealed by that avatar - in the case of a Dear Abby columnist or the authors of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, that information is available; Second, how the behavior of that avatar reflects the public aims of the person behind it. In the case of an author, the intent is generally constant: to write a work which will sell and be accepted.
Ultimately, the fact that an avatar is 'fake' is nominally irrelevant. Concealing your identity is perfectly reasonable in many contexts -- for the sake of privacy, principally. The actions of that avatar, however, are a completely separate question...
Posted 26 July 2008 - 04:15 PM
Character blogs, like described above are certainly acceptable as long as it's spelled out somewhere, that this is a representation of the company. If there's explanation and the company is owning that explanation ... then by all means, that's perfectly acceptable.
Same scenario with Dear Abbey - and other Pen Names - Steven King uses them as well. All of these people are known, and they take ownership of it somewhere down the line.
Where I have issues when it comes to ethics in social media is this building of fake "sock puppet" accounts to gain links, traffic, etc. by fooling the community. Does anyone think that's ethical?
I love this discussion btw, very very enlightening!
Edited by storyspinner, 28 July 2008 - 09:27 AM.
Posted 27 July 2008 - 11:12 PM
First, you spend months sharing awesome links and insert maybe several of yours per month.
How is sharing great links fooling?
It is only fooling, as long as your own content doesn't deserve to be on the front page, which most members see and bury, btw.
Posted 28 July 2008 - 09:32 AM
A bot cannot figure out what's great, and also just sends links to the sites programmed into it. It may have nice greetings, like "hey if you have time, check this out and give it a thumbs up". But as you pointed out, people will tire of just going to your articles over and over again and figure out, it's just a bot.
In this scenario.... they figure out its a bot, you've just trashed your reputation, and... wasted a lot of time. Neither are good for a company/brand trying to step into the social media world.
So, in this scenario, when is it logical to create these bots? Perhaps only when you are "playing" with domains and company names that can be tossed away?
Just trying to understand... why someone would advocate this course of action for a client.
Posted 28 July 2008 - 09:39 AM
Clearly, that is not me
In any event, is it ethical? That's questionable. I actually know someone who a very religious Jew and is also extremely engaged in social media. If he used a picture of himself, he'd never get the time of day. However, he vouches for good content, he doesn't deny that he's male (when asked), and he's an overall great participant. His avatar is also that of a very beautiful woman.
Is it ethical? It's up to you. He's not any of the 50 hottest girls on Digg, but it shows that he's not alone in what he's doing:
And no, I don't think any of these people are actually building scripts or intend to be malicious at all. They just want to have attention they would not otherwise get in this kind of online society.
That is all. I am stepping down from the soapbox. As Li said, this is very enlightening
Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:40 PM
Flogs (fake or flack blogs) have been on the scene for years. Wholely created as a tool to promote a brand while pretending to be a personal or 'fan' site. A notable example is Walmart's hidden subsidisation of the Wal-Marting Across America blog. There are many many others.
FRO (Fake Review Opimisation) - so important/prevalent it has become an optimisation subset. A notorious example is Home Depot's seeded comments and reviews. Which is far from alone.
Does the branding outweigh the backlash and bad rep SERP returns? Is any mention better than none? Given the prevalence of both types of corporate advertising/promotion and the speed at which so many are exposed and the viral vitriol that follows one does wonder. Are they drinking someone's kool-aid or is the negativity ROI truly positive?
There is one webdev site (which shall remain nameless) that acquired, and still (having tried at Cre8 today) acquires, backlinks largely by (1) spamming webdev fora via multiple personas to drop sig links; (2) spamming webdev fora with posts outing themselves as spammers - complete with multiple URL mentions. Apparently they believe the value of the acquired links outweigh the damage to their reputation - to those within the industry who notice such things - as they prey on coldcalled sme/smb. Caveat emptor.
And now there are marketing campaigns built around multiple avatar/personas created to push marketing one 'friend' at a time. Some/many/most are storyboarded and scripted in detail before the first fake username is registered on the first SM site. And then they start interacting and drawing the 'audience' into their perrformance art. Nothing like getting the marks to do as much heavy lifting as possible.
Fakery in marketing has a long history. And looks to get longer.
Posted 28 July 2008 - 07:49 PM
Found this view point an interesting read - Will The Real Internet Marketer Please Stand Up?
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