This week:

3 – When will Meta care about dead teenagers?

2 – You could be anyone online. And you may not even know about it.

1 – Scamio can help you spot the scams.


 

3 – When will Meta care about dead teenagers?

“Meta revoked a job offer to a prominent cyber-intelligence analyst immediately after he criticized Instagram for failing to protect children online.”

Paul Raffile is one of the most prominent voices on LinkedIn warning about the immense scale of sextortion targeting teenagers around the world, and the growing number who have committed suicide because of these scams. [PS If you haven’t heard of how these scams work, take a look at this short interactive video published by the US National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)].

Paul (and many others) have been appealing to Meta to make small improvements to Instagram’s account settings and to deactivate known Instagram accounts and Facebook groups involved in this rampant crime. Here is Paul’s recent list of 6 simple things that Meta could do today to curb the surge on Instagram. And yet, Paul says that nothing is changing. For example, “when Jordan DeMay was blackmailed to suicide by a sextortion scammer on Instagram, Meta denied the police’s emergency request to turn over chat logs. That same account then went on to exploit and blackmail even more victims.”

According to this report in The Guardian, “Financial sextortion schemes have soared in the past two years, with more than 26,700 cases of underage victims reported to NCMEC in 2023 alone. According to the FBI, sextortion is the fastest-growing cybercrime in the US.”

So, what has Meta done in response to the fastest-growing cybercrime in the US? Less than nothing.

As reported by The Guardian, Meta apparently withdrew a job offer that Paul had already accepted when they heard him criticise Instagram’s lack of action.

Perhaps Meta does not have a programmer who can write the IF-THEN-ELSE statement required to make these small adjustments. But a cynic may suggest that Meta is not dealing with this because adjusting the default account settings could reduce user engagement metrics that are reported to the financial markets. In other words, reducing the risks to teenagers would impact its share price.

So what?

Meta doesn’t care about dead teenagers until the issue impacts its bottom line. So, to all the investment managers out there talking about the importance of ESG, isn’t it time to apply pressure on Meta to reconsider its role in these suicides? Or is ESG just a marketing concept while profits and growth remain the only metrics that matter?

 


 

2 – You could be anyone online. And you may not even know about it.

“I could see my face and hear my voice. But it was all very creepy, because I saw myself saying things that I never said.”

Olga Loiek is a 21-year-old Ukrainian attending college in the US. According to this article by BBC News (and shared by ASPI), Olga has seen her face appear in various videos on Chinese social media. Apparently, “these ‘girls’ were speaking in Mandarin – a language Olga had never learned. They were apparently from Russia, and talked about China-Russia friendship or advertised Russian products.” Apparently, her investigation has revealed that “more than 4,900 videos have been generated using her face.”

Where does this lead us? Well, in the article, Kayla Blomquist, a technology and geopolitics researcher at Oxford University, warns that “there is a risk of individuals being framed with artificially generated, politically sensitive content”.

So what?

If you think about this, and the DeepFaceLive video that I shared last week, it is clear that we can no longer believe anything that we see or hear online.

 


 

1 – Scamio can help you spot the scams.

“If you feel like someone may be trying to scam you, instead of playing detective, start a conversation with Scamio. You can either copy-paste the message, upload an image, send a link, or describe your situation. Scamio analyzes it and lets you know if it’s safe or not.”

This is the sales pitch for a free service recently launched by BitDefender, called Scamio.

While I think they need to reconsider the name, the service is interesting. It operates as a chatbot, so you can even interact with it through WhatsApp. If you receive a text message, link, or QR code that you are unsure about, you can paste it into a WhatsApp message and send it to your Scamio buddy. It will reply a couple of minutes later with its analysis.

I’ve tried it with the usual scams (e.g. eflow, custom charges, An Post deliveries) and it correctly explained to me why they were scams. I also tried it with some unusual but genuine messages that I received recently, and it correctly explained to me why they were probably genuine.

So what?

While we may not have strong defences against deep fake videos and Instagram scammers, Scamio may help us spot the old skool SMS and email scams.