Letters to the Editor: Social media platform irresponsible with security

A reader says social media companies make it all but impossible for users to report a problem and have it dealt with
Letters to the Editor: Social media platform irresponsible with security

A reader has urged TikTok users to be aware of scams.

There is a lot of discussion about online safety these days, the need to regulate social media platforms and the difficulty in holding social media companies to account for the content they host. 

I read with interest a number of recent Irish Examiner articles on the topic, trying, as a parent myself, to keep abreast. 

My own experience with TikTok is useful in highlighting how these types of companies boast about the “serious steps they take”, whereas in fact they get away with making it all but impossible for ordinary users to report a problem and get it dealt with.

They rely on unreliable algorithims and automated systems to police their platforms. 

This means they can cut staff, run their media empires with robots, while exposing their users to systemic risks.

So here’s the problem: No less than three times lately I have come across accounts that were clones of genuine accounts. 

The creator of the cloned account had set up an account that very closely resembled the original genuine account, stolen their profile pic, copied their bio, and reposted all their videos.

At a casual glance you think you are looking at the real thing. The only giveaway is usually there is some slight difference in the account name. 

If you come across the clone account first you won’t even realise it is not the real one.

Usually these cloned accounts are of TikTokers who have substantial followings already — celebrities, musicians, etc — but not always. 

At some point you will probably follow this account if this type of content interests you, the account creator will follow you back, and possibly invite you to DM (direct message) them via TikTok. 

Or else they ask you to set up a different means of communication instead, eg Google spaces, so the conversation cannot be monitored or reported to TikTok.

You exchange a few messages, all good. Then at some point the scam — or worse — will start, because that’s what these cloned accounts are all about. 

You will be invited to send money to help someone — usually some “poor kids with nothing” or asked to call a certain WhatsApp number. 

They start asking “for a photo of you, please”. 

At this point, if your head is screwed on, you realise where this is going and that you have not been communicating with whoever you thought it was. 

The amazing thing is, I nearly fell for the charity angle, even though I’m a middle-aged adult. 

What chance do children and teenagers have, not even having a lifetime of experience behind them?

OK, so what can be done about it? 

Nothing much actually, except being vigilant for your own sake. 

If you try and report it, the automated process makes it all but impossible. Click ‘report account’ and you find a drop-down menu of reasons. 

If you click on “fake account or impersonating another account” this opens up a new menu where you can either say it’s impersonating your own account, or that of a celebrity. 

Well, it’s not my account, so you click “celebrity”; now you have to type in the name of the account being copied. 

The automated process proposes matches and, being a bot, comes up empty-handed or with wildly different ones. There’s no way you can simply type in the name of the account and leave it at that. So this menu is a dead end. 

Try a different approach: report the account as “fraud and scams” (which it is). 

TikTok deliberates for a while, then decides “no violation found” because the cloned account — while 100% fake and there to scam you — doesn’t actually contain any material in violation or a scam.

Where’s the fraud in tuneful bluesgrass banjo-playing? Or beautiful travel destinations and travel blogs? 

That’s not where the scam lies so TikTok — being a big clumsy automated bot — can’t find it, tripping over itself in the dark.

Faced with this loop, I did my civic duty to try and warn others by leaving warning comments on the offending accounts’ videos — but the creators of these accounts can simply delete your comments and block you, leaving you unable to comment further and warn others.

So what about contacting TikTok directly? No joy there either, unless you’re law enforcement, and have the weight of court warrants behind you and are asking for very specific data. 

Instead, the help centre will direct you to FAQs and endless menus, none of which allow you to report a specific problem. 

In short, TikTok doesn’t seem to actually care, it only wants to be seen as doing so at the minimum effort to itself.

To paraphrase the Latin clause “caveat emptor” — “user beware”.

Name and address with the editor

State-owned energy

The abdication of responsibility in continuing to auction-off the control and management of the citizens’ rightful benefits of our green energy resources is a disgrace, more than that it is tantamount to a grievous crime against every citizen of Ireland.

Our representatives are preparing for the next grand auction of our precious energy resources which will place them in the hands of private boardrooms. The Government must realise that not having absolute independence in this sector will leave us wide open once again to the more energy crises in the not-too-distant future and basic logic teaches us that this will assuredly happen again.

Corporation tax receipts must be used to create state-owned and controlled green energy production for ourselves and future generations. Green energy investments are considered to be inflation-friendly which should incentivise our government even more.

Having state-owned green
energy production facilities will guarantee an assured source of revenue into the future. Selling off our natural resources along with a readymade Irish consumer base of hundreds of thousands of customers to the private sector is a betrayal beyond words.

Joe Brennan, Ballinspittle, Co Cork

Political empathy

Having read Jennifer Horgan’s column — ‘Sinn Féin has only one narrative and can never lead the country’ ( Irish Examiner, September 22) — I felt anger, as I believe that her argument was rather biased and fundamentally weak as a result. 

She said Sinn Féin “has one huge flaw. It relates to empathy” and the party’s lack of it. 

I say to Ms Horgan to name a political party, or indeed an individual party member for that matter, who shows real empathy to others?

WT Cosgrave showed little empathy for his opponents when he authorised the secret burial of executed Republicans, and withheld the remains from the families of the deceased. 

The same could be said of Éamon de Valera when he walked out with his followers in January 1922, following the narrow result, 64 to 57, of the Treaty discussion. 

This reckless action resulted in the terrible Civil War which began a few months later. Not much empathy there.

Liam Cosgrave, who was taoiseach during the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, displayed a complete lack of empathy when he later refused to meet a sub-committee of the Barron report to explain his government’s scandalous inaction at that time.

Empathy was also in short supply with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently, when he said he was not concerned that he might lose both the farmers and the gardaí during the next general election. I wonder if he really believes in the above.

Many people are getting fed up with both the Taoiseach’s and the Tánaiste’s vicious attacks on Sinn Féin over recent years, and this all without even the slightest hint of empathy. And the main opposition party may have been correct on most occasions.

However, in spite of what Ms Horgan thinks, if Sinn Féin receives the largest vote in the next general election, they will be fully entitled to lead the government.

Liam Burke,Dunmore, Co Kilkenny

A cruel, mad system

There sadly is nothing new in Fergus Finlay’s column — ‘People with disabilities battling a cruel and mad system’ ( Irish Examiner, October 3) — but certain things need to be stated. 

The Irish Government may be trying to follow the UK tiered system for disability allowance but in the UK the allowance is independent, irrespective of work and income, and so is the medical card. 

The green paper makes no reference as to how those in rural areas will get to work where twice as many have no access to a car as opposed to the general population and no public transport.

The EU spends 2% of its GDP on social security for disability, Ireland a pitiful 0.8%. We need a disability allowance that’s independent along with a medical card.

Government also sadly spends fortune every year for managers, directors, chairpersons, executives, etc, in disability institutions — many of them with no disability — while those with disability and no jobs live in poverty paying the ultimate price.

John Scanlon, Listowel, Co Kerry

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