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July 2, 2007


Michael Baynger

Bill, this is a fascinating experiment with finding the defining edge of real versus fake. Although I am not impressed by fake content (check my web site) being injected into a context of authentic UGC, in this case I find myself feeling OK with it. And yet Facebook personnel are obviously uncomfortable with it.

In my blog posts I have talked about the importance of using framing mechanisms to help separate the fake from the real (ideally without sacrificing the enjoyment of the content). The problem is that we lack suitable frames for social media channels which overwhelmingly carry authentic User Generated Content. However I also believe that new ways to create such frames will be developed over time by creative experiments. This appears to be such an experiment.

In this instance you have created fake content around a known imaginary character. The facts that the character is known to be fictious and that one would only come across him on Facebook if they were actively looking for him or through some sort of 'inside connection', seem to make this an acceptable (i.e. not fraudulent) engagement with social media.

This is different from posing as another person and fraudulently trying to engage in 'real' relationships with actual people. Perhaps this is what 'Justin' at Facebook (is he real or is he an algorithm?) is concerned about.

Users of Facebook and other social media communities are entitled to expect a high level of trustworthiness from all their connections (I know this is an 'unrealistic' ideal). We need that authenticity and integrity for such systems to work.

But in this case I do believe that the Facebook folks missed an important point. The special knowledge of the illusion that affected users have (i.e. because they are fans), combined with the 'insider' nature of establishing connections on Facebook (i.e. as 'Friends'), make it a safe and creative mix of fact and fancy.

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