Facebook scolded the Drug Enforcement Administration this week after learning that a narcotics agent had impersonated a user named Sondra Arquiett on the social network in order to communicate and gather intelligence on suspects. In a strongly worded letter to DEA head Michele Leonhart, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan reiterated that not only did the practice explicitly violate the site’s terms of service, but threatened Facebook’s trust-based social ecosystem.
Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies. We regard the conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies, and the account created by the agent in the Arquiett matter has been disabled.
Accordingly, Facebook asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies.
So far, it is unclear whether the DEA has responded, although the US Department of Justice has independently launched an investigation into the practice. We commend Facebook for holding the agency accountable.
But we also think Facebook should go further in protecting users and the integrity of its services. The DEA isn’t only law enforcement agency creating fake profiles on Facebook, and fake profiles are not the only way that law enforcement agencies routinely violate the site’s terms of service.
Sock Puppet Investigators
Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” require users to provide their “real names and information” and warn users to “not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” In other words, this is a ban on sock puppets: fake accounts that someone creates for deceptive purposes.