AP reported in late August that the agency removed its previous ban on creating fake social media profiles. It follows the country’s decision to require visa applicants to provide their social media account names over the past five years. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of Homeland Security, said creating fake identities will make it easier for investigators to look for signs of fraud or security issues when granting someone entry to the country.
Facebook spokesperson Sarah Pollack told AP in a statement:
“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear. Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”
Creating fake profiles is also against Twitter’s guidelines, but the company told AP that it’s still reviewing Homeland Security’s rules. As AP notes, agents aren’t allowed to add or even follow the individuals they’re investigating. They can only look at subjects’ public posts and profile details and can’t interact with them. The way agents can investigate persons of interest doesn’t matter, though: the issue is that they’ll still have to create fake accounts.
It’s not clear if Facebook plans to take any steps to prevent authorities from creating false identities. The company has been purging fraudulent identities en masse lately, though, reporting earlier this year that it took down over 2 billion accounts in the first quarter of 2019 alone.