Multimedia Critique – Follower Factory

Digital Media Skills

The multimedia project I selected for evaluation is the Follower Factory from the New York Times, published January 27, 2018. My interdisciplinary degree minors are in sociology and digital marketing and I thought this was the most appropriate out of the options available to evaluate based on its relevance to my field of study.

My initial observation is the impressive effort that went into compiling this information. The article cites 8 reporters contributing to the project, 3 researchers, design and development to two individuals, and art direction by another two individuals. I can only imagine the actual interactivity of story and graphics had many additional contributors to creating and compiling the data presented and the collective presentation stands out as most impressive to me from both a graphic design perspective as well as a storytelling perspective. The appearance of more and more information as you scroll through the interactive feature engages the audience to continue reading and stay fully immersed in the information being presented. The interactive graphics are not overwhelming and stay relevant to the topic at hand.

The article details the black market of social media through the utilization of fake followers and the price of obtaining said followers. The initial introduction details a real social media user and contrasts it against a fake account created utilizing her online persona. The fake account promotes and follows obscure news articles, posts in languages the real user does not speak, and promoted pornographic materials while the real user was trying to live her life as a 17-year-old high school senior. The article goes on to shed light upon a specific provider of these fake follower accounts, Devumi, and challenges the practice of utilizing the service as in poor taste. The article goes on to highlight many practices of the company as unscrupulous, common practices of bots stealing identities of dormant Twitter users, the owner of Devumi lying about professional achievements on his LinkedIn profile, the outsourcing
of activities within the company left intentionally vague and leaving employees unclear on what they were working on even when it was on the same project. This in depth investigation the practices of Devumi lead to the suspension of their Twitter account following the publishing of this article. The article closes with the originally introduced Jessica Rychly disclosing she will likely just delete her own Twitter account in light of everything that happened with her bot persona, even though the bot was eventually picked up by Twitter’s security algorithms and deactivated.

Online privacy is a huge matter of concern for the growing number of internet users and devices collecting information on your day to day interactions and browsing habits.

The safety of our information on the web and throughout various social media platforms is taken for granted in the automatic clicking of end user agreements that supposedly protect the user while engaging in these platforms. When it comes down to the facts, these platforms own your information and can use your content and likeness however they want and don’t really have control when it comes to stopping others from doing the same. I have had many bot accounts appear on my Facebook friends request list, typically from more vulnerable members of my friend circle and family such as grandparents and new internet users unfamiliar with security measures to protect their information. I commonly offer my assistance to secure the accounts of these friends and family members, ensuring their privacy settings are turned on, their passwords are secure, their posts are set to publish to friends only, and they don’t reveal personal information through viral social media posts.

On that topic, many of the viral posts on Facebook are clearly attempts to collect your personal information. The “name generators” that ask you to share your corresponding phrases to your birth month, birth day, and last three digits of your phone number are phishing attempts at gaining access to that personal information. The “have you ever” or “my firsts” posts that ask people to reveal their first car, mothers maiden name, job, or the street they lived on as a child are phishing for the answers to common security questions and make it easier for these bots to create false personas that bypass the security algorithms because of the amount of valid information they provide. The only answer is vigilance in controlling what information you share and with who while using these social media outlets and education when you come across the desperate attempts to collect this private information.

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