I knew then that I was dealing with a complex network of fake profiles, using likes and shares to promote each other and build a substantial audience.
What’s more, the photos used often depicted young girls, sometimes minors, in sexualized poses.
She was gorgeous, she was mysterious and she had created an online audience of several hundred thousand followers.
The thing is, she also stole the identities of disabled or sick people to get it.
By using network analysis software, I was able to create a map and organize accounts according to the relationships between them.
The software considers more active accounts as “nodes,” and surrounds them with the accounts with which they interact the most. This tool determines which profiles interact with each other more than with the rest of the network.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re part of the network. To get a better understanding of what was going on, I analyzed some 200 Facebook posts from about 40 fake accounts.
They might just be trying to piggyback on the fake accounts’ popularity to get a bit more visibility for their posts. Every time a fake profile tagged another, I would record the source and its target.
That’s when the true nature of the network revealed itself.
I’ve been covering fake news and online disinformation for three years now, and I thought I’d seen it all.
But a Facebook profile by the name of Béatrice Boistard really gave me pause.