K Press Perspective: False Facebook pages appearing for FSM Government elected leaders and appointed officials

Someone has been creating false Facebook pages for FSM government elected leaders and top appointed government officials. It doesn’t seem to be an innocuous, “I had nothing to do, so I created a Facebook page” type of thing. Rather, it seems to be an effort to gain the confidence of unwary Facebook users so that they can draw them into some sort of a financial scam.
The Internet has changed everything. It’s come to the point that some people can’t do much of anything without first consulting sources on the Internet or posting on social media that their feet just hit the ground as they got out of bed, and providing a photo of their feet hitting the ground to prove it.
But be warned, sites on the Internet can be wrong, whether intentionally so, or from malice. They can be disingenuous in the extreme. When some of those fake content sites are called to task, they will often say that their malice is entertainment, as we just saw with the Alex Jones (Info Wars) Custody battle in U.S. news this week.
Blogs and fake news sites on the Internet can take you in if you aren’t careful and vigilant. Some internet sites will prey on your preconceived notions and tell you what you want to hear with the end goal that you will do what they hope you will do. If you aren’t careful, sites on the Internet can steal your identity, your money. If you aren’t very careful, they can even steal the hearts of members of your family.

The Internet was never intended to be a vehicle for that type of activity but, user, beware! Not everything on the Internet is what it seems to be, and certainly, not everyone on the Internet is who they claim to be. That is certainly the case with several Facebook pages set up to mimic FSM government leaders.
A few weeks ago, I accepted a “friend request” on Facebook from someone claiming to be FSM Vice President Yosiwo George, who I consider to be a friend. Several weeks went by after that friend request before I received my first message from him. That message was what is called an “emoji” and was a silly graphic of someone dancing. I couldn’t imagine the Vice President sending me such a message and I didn’t respond.
On March 30, I received another Instant Message from the person claiming to be Vice President George. He asked how my family was doing. In return, I asked how he and his lovely wife were doing. We went back and forth with pleasantries that anyone could have exchanged with me without any specific details.
I knew what was coming before the person purporting to be our Vice President wrote that he had a “mutually beneficial financial arrangement that I might be interested in”. “Ah hah,” I wrote, “and here it comes.” The person asked what I meant. I told him that I had received other similar messages from people who I later learned had no Facebook page. “I tell you what,” I wrote “I’ll give you a call you at your office right now. If I am wrong then I apologize.”
The person was bold enough to at least answer, “Okay”.
I picked up the phone and called the good Vice President who assured me that he has no Facebook page and he hadn’t been contacting me. I was already pretty certain of that fact, but by the time I got back to my chat with the NOT Vice President person, not only was the chat gone but so was the Facebook page “created in his image”.
Now there is another Facebook page for the Vice President in its place and several people have already accepted his friend requests. Many of them are still there despite my warnings that the person they “friended” is not the Vice President.
The first posting on that page is a link to a video by Micronesia Renewable Energy, Inc., a company in Guam with a somewhat unusual method for selling their product. They assured me that they had nothing to do with the creation of the fake Facebook pages and didn’t know why their link appeared on Vice President George’s fake page.
President Peter Christian also has a Facebook page that is not him. He has confirmed several times that he doesn’t use Facebook.
This development is especially disturbing because so many people rely on social media for their news, and many of them have no clue about how to decide whether what they are reading is faithful reporting, or maliciously wrong.
During a media roundtable at the College of Micronesia’s Center for Entrepreneurship this afternoon, I was enlightened to learn that most of the 20 or so students get their news from social media sites—specifically Facebook. Facebook itself has admitted that it has had a problem with “fake news sites”, and that doesn’t seem to have changed. Fake news sites influence people’s decisions when they don’t know that they are “fake”.
Facebook itself isn’t an evil entity. I have personally connected with people from my past I never thought I’d hear from again. I keep in contact with my scattered family members on Facebook and sometimes I have made contacts for the newspaper through Facebook that I can’t seem to make in any other way, but I’ve now learned that it isn’t a reliable way without confirmation.
I’ve never been a victim to any of the financial scams that fake users want to perpetrate. I figure that if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. But I did fall victim to a fake Facebook page when I tried to contact Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Lorin Robert during President Christian’s recent State visit to China. I first tried to contact him via email, but the email came back as undeliverable because his mailbox was full. I assumed it was because he was in a country that didn’t allow him access to his email account.
When the email was returned, I did what I figured was the next best thing. I searched for him on Facebook. There was an account there and so I wrote a detailed message on IM about my questions on the trip to China and tried to organize an interview with President Christian. That message was immediately read and so I waited for confirmation. It never came. So I wrote another lengthy message which was also immediately read, but there was no response.
On the day that I called the honorable Vice President asking him if he had a Facebook page, the possibility finally got through my thick skull that my message to Foreign Affairs Secretary Robert may have gone to yet another fake Facebook profile, but by that time I was on deadline for the newspaper that published on April 10.
Fortunately, President Christian consented to a last minute interview in his office. That article appeared on the front page of the last Kaselehlie Press despite the fake profile.
Bill Jaynes
Managing Editor

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