In Keep Calm and Log On, I talked about some of the ways Amelia Acker recommends identifying fake accounts and content that may be trying to manipulate you. Here are some more, including online tools.
If you look around, you may find that an account is stealing its images from elsewhere and using them to mislead you. There are tools that can help you find where else an image was used online, like TinEye. The RevEye browser plugin can also do this “reverse image search,” and is available for Chrome and Firefox. Google Image Search can also look for images like one you upload. Click the camera icon next to the search bar to start that process.
There’s a lot you can learn by looking at what has changed on a page over time. Use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to look at the account, comparing earlier dates with what you see now. Was there a sudden jump in how many followers they had? Was there a dramatic difference in the stuff the account was talking about? Those could be a signs of a fake account. (The Wayback Machine is also a great tool for finding stuff that a site or account has taken down because they’re embarrassed about it…)
Not every service makes this possible, but if a social media site like Twitter or Facebook has verified the account you’re looking at, it’s a good indicator. This person has probably provided some evidence that they are who they say they are. Look for the blue checkmark next to the account name on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. If you’re looking at an account that supposedly belongs to a famous person and it isn’t verified, definitely do a search to see whether there’s another page around for that person that is verified.
And a few more things to look for on an account, from Amelia Acker’s list:
Do they or their followers use a whole bunch of hashtags which don’t appear to be related to the post they’re in?
How often are they liked or shared by other accounts? A low number could indicate a fake account.
Do they have a very high number of shares of some of their posts compared to their low number of followers?
Some of these tips have been built into Hoaxy, a tool that helps you see when bots may be retweeting people’s posts on Twitter.
For more, order a copy of Keep Calm and Log On.