A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not, using social media to create a false identity, particularly to pursue deceitful online romances (Shulman, Nev. "Catfish." Urban Dictionary. Web. 29 July 2015). Nev Shulman created this definition for the term catfish back in 2010 after releasing his documentary film “Catfish” which was based on a personal experience that he went through himself.
Nev had shared many personal and intimate conversations with a female on Facebook by the name of Megan Faccio. They formed a very close online relationship. In Nev’s movie trailer you could hear clips of him saying “I really care about this girl. I’ve had real conversations with her” but you could also hear him saying that he didn’t know much about her after his friend Max started questioning him. It turned out that Nev was communicating with a woman in her forties by the name of Angela.
Since then, Nev has received many emails from people all around the world explaining their own catfish experiences as well as others asking for his help. Many of these people suspect that they’ve been getting cat fished themselves. After so many emails, Nev felt such a need to help all of these people that he made a successful TV show called "Catfish: The TV Show: on MTV back in 2010. This show has been a huge success for the past five years. Although this new definition for the word catfish hasn’t been around too long, the act has been around for decades. Why are so many people getting cat fished? Social media networks such as Facebook do not have Secure Cyber Security systems, allowing people to hack accounts, create fake profiles and fake identities in order to build romantic relationships with others online.
Facebook has had many complaints surrounding its attempts to create a better social network. Back in 2012, the social networking site started initial public offering in efforts to attract more customers for advertising and campaigns. Malicious users of the social networking site took advantage of this offer. Many fake profiles have been made on Facebook since then. The Society of Service Research created an experiment to make users aware of this malicious activity: “we established a comprehensive data harvesting attack, the social engineering experiment, and analyzed the interactions between fake profiles and regular users to eventually undermine the Facebook business model”. In this experiment it was explained how Facebook says that 5 percent to 6 percent of registered accounts are indeed fake accounts. Facebook knows that there are many fake accounts on their networking site. The company also states in their Legal Terms that users are not allowed to provide fake information. False information puts the business in danger, but it knows for a fact how many false accounts are on the website. It is because of this that the Site doesn’t draw too much attention to false accounts. Nor do they try hindering users from making false accounts. After all, the more users Facebook has, the more money they earn.
The researchers at the Society of Service Research aren’t the only ones who have a problem with the way Facebook runs their site. “The watchdog organization Privacy International charged Facebook with severe privacy flaws and put it in the second lowest category for “substantial and comprehensive privacy threats” with Google being in the first lowest category. These two sites are where most Catfish get their pictures and information from for fake accounts. “Nearly two years after Facebook's inception, users' passwords were still being sent without encryption, and thus could be easily intercepted by a third party” (Jones & Soltren, 2005). This problem could have easily allowed people to access user pictures, family members, contact information, most recent activity, and even messages. All of these things are perfect for identity theft and romantic catfishing. “Even the most lauded privacy feature of Facebook, the ability to restrict one's profile to be viewed by friends only, failed for the first 3 years of its existence: Information posted on restricted profiles showed up in searches unless a user chose to opt-out his or her profile from searches” (Jones & Soltren, 2005). Even now Facebook has some serious work to do in order to protect its users. Sadly, even Facebook itself is eyeballing our information.
Here is a trailer of the movie Catfish if you haven't seen it already. You can also catch "Catfish: TV show on MTV".
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