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Fake friends on MySpace, FaceBook and Friendster is now selling ‘hot friends’ at $.99/mo. for MySpace, FaceBook, and Friendster.

I’m noticing that these things are moving to the next level. We are seeing the next stage of social manipulation. These are attempts to grab attention where the mechanisms for detecting such grabs are still under-developed. An arms race. Only this time – it’s happening on a personal level. The friend list.

Our friends and contacts (as we discussed at last week’s IIW2006 session on Reputation, “who you hang with”) say a lot about who we are and what type of person we are. So, therefore, it follows that this list of people would become a vector of attack for manipulating that reputation calculation. And it seems so wrong…

Bruce Schneier captures the sense of strangeness – and the fascination of watching this unfold:

Hacking Reputation in MySpace and Facebook

I’ll be the first to admit it: I know next to nothing about MySpace or Facebook. I do know that they’re social networking sites, and that — at least to some extent — your reputation is based on who are your “friends” and what they say about you.

Which means that this follows, like day follows night. “Fake Your Space” is a site where you can hire fake friends to leave their pictures and personalized comments on your page. Now you can pretend that you’re more popular than you actually are:

FakeYourSpace is an exciting new service that enables normal everyday people like me and you to have Hot friends on popular social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook. Not only will you be able to see these Gorgeous friends on your friends list, but FakeYourSpace enables you to create customized messages and comments for our Models to leave you on your comment wall. FakeYourSpace makes it easy for any regular person to make it seem like they have a Model for a friend. It doesn’t stop there however. Maybe you want to appear as if you have a Model for a lover. FakeYourSpace can make this happen!

What’s next? Services that verify friends on your friends’ MySpace pages? Services that block friend verification services? Where will this all end up?

( via Howard Greenstein at Social Media Club )

As for how this ties into reputation management software? I think the goal of reputation management software should be to make public and make explicit those connections we want to publish about ourselves. But with that comes a responsibility on the part of both the publisher and the consumer to understand the metadata surrounding those connections and those claims.

We need tools to be able to verify things – follow leads – trace back and investigate. Without that, everything really is a popularity contest that can be gamed very easily. We need the ability to see who is lying. Social norms will sort out the punishment.

Of course, that assumes that people are watching and that people care, which is another matter altogether.

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