Fake profiles generated by artificial intelligence identified and removed from the LinkedIn network

Two researchers from Stanford’s Internet Observatory, Renée DiResta and Josh Goldstein, found more than 1,000 fake profiles on LinkedIn created with AI-generated photos, specifically with GANs (Generative Adversial Networks). These fake profiles could allow companies to reach more customers without hiring more staff or exceeding the number of messages imposed by LinkedIn.

Renée DiResta and Josh Goldstein of the Stanford Internet Observatory decided to investigate fake profiles following a message received by Renée DiResta, from “Keenan Ramsey”, posing as an employee of RingCentral. Although she was not interested in the software offered for sale, she looked at the profile picture and realized that it was strange: Keenan Ramsey was wearing only one earring, his eyes were lined up right in the middle of the picture and wisps of hair were appearing and disappearing…

Then she received a second LinkedIn message from an alleged RingCentral employee whose profile picture also appeared to be computer-generated and, ultimately,
an email from a third RingCentral employee, referencing the message from Keenan Ramsey, who turned out to be an actual employee of the company.

Renée DiResta and Josh Goldstein then searched for fake profiles on LinkedIn and found more than 1,000.

Josh Goldstein said:

“In the space of a few weeks, we found over a thousand accounts that appear to be fake accounts with images generated by GAN. And when we searched the internet for these people, we found no evidence of their existence anywhere else, which is rare. »

Renée DiResta adds on twitter:

“This is not a story of misinformation or disinformation, but rather the intersection of a fairly mundane business use case with AI technology, and the resulting questions of ethics and expectations. . What are our assumptions when we meet other people on social media? What actions cross the line of manipulation? »

The NPR website decided to continue the investigation of more than 70 companies in which these fake profiles were supposed to work. Most were unaware that these fake profiles existed having outsourced their marketing to specialized agencies and claimed that they had in no way authorized the use of AI-generated photos.

Fake RingCentral employee profiles

Stanford researchers have found 60 fake profiles of alleged RingCentral employees, the company confirms that none of them have ever worked there. The person who emailed Renée DiResta following Keenan Ramsey’s LinkedIn post was a bona fide RingCentral employee but left the company.

RingCentral has acknowledged that it has contracted with other companies to contact potential customers and set up meetings with its own salespeople (referred to in the company as “lead generation”). One of them created fake profiles, but RingCentral didn’t reveal her name. Heather Hinton, chief information security officer at RingCentral, said she was unaware of the practice and did not approve of it. She told NPR in an interview:

“That’s not how we do business. It was a reminder to us that technology is moving faster than even those of us watching it can keep up. And we just have to be ever more vigilant about what we’re doing and what our suppliers are going to do on our behalf. »

RingCentral spokeswoman Mariana Leventis said in a statement:

“While this may have been accepted industry practice in the past, going forward we do not believe this is an acceptable practice and goes against our commitment to our customers. We are taking specific steps to update our approach to lead generation and to educate our employees on what is and is not acceptable in terms of communicating with customers and partners. »

Several of the other companies listed as current employers on the apparently bogus profiles told NPR the same thing: They used outside vendors to pitch potential clients on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn says all inauthentic profiles, including those using images that don’t represent an actual user, are against its rules. He also indicates in his page “Policies of the professional community”: “ Don’t use someone else’s picture, or any other picture that doesn’t look like you, for your profile picture.

The professional network said it investigated and removed those who violated its policies, including rules about creating fake profiles or falsifying information.

LinkedIn spokesperson Leonna Spilman confirms:

“Our policies make it clear that each LinkedIn profile must represent a real person. We are constantly updating our technical defenses to better identify fake profiles and remove them from our community, as we did in this case Ultimately, it’s about making sure our members can get in touch with real people, and we strive to ensure they have a safe environment in which to do so. »

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Fake profiles generated by artificial intelligence identified and removed from the LinkedIn network


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