Internet scams aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been around practically since the invention of digital communication. Whether it’s a “prince” from a faraway land asking for money or a person posing as someone they’re not, these scams are a big problem.
While tech-savvy users can often spot them, others aren’t so good at it. Facebook’s Messenger platform is a hotbed for potential scams. So, Facebook is doing something about it. The social media giant is rolling out a new feature within Messenger that creates an in-app pop-up when a user may be receiving “potentially harmful” messages.
The new pop-up feature within Messenger will help protect users from three types of distasteful content—money-related scams, impersonation attempts, and adult-minor conversations.
Facebook has struggled with these issues in the past as it is often unable to identify scammers. The new feature uses machine learning to detect when something unsavory might be going on. Facebook says that its algorithms look at the overall behavior of an account—not just the contents of a message.
Scams involving money are one of the most common online tricks. They are a quick way to separate a gullible user from their money and are often conducted by individuals residing in other parts of the world. When Messenger detects that this type of scam might be happening, it will now warn users to “be wary of claims about money.”
Another issue that’s seen particularly on Facebook is impersonation. A rogue user may steal photos and information from a legitimate user’s page and then create a fake one that closely resembles it. At a glance, it can be difficult to spot the difference between the real and fake ones. Messenger’s new feature now warns users of this behavior. When it detects that a message comes from someone a person isn’t already friends with that looks familiar to an actual friend, Facebook will warn users that the person might be pretending to be someone they know.
Finally, the new feature aims to help keep minors safe online. The pop-up alert “educates people under the age of 18 to be cautious when interacting with an adult they may not know and empowers them to take action before responding to a message.”
Ready for Encryption
Right now, Facebook could simply scan the contents of a message to help determine if it is a scam. However, that will soon change. The social media company aims to roll out end-to-end encrypted messaging sometime in the relatively near future.
Some people worry that this will give Facebook less visibility into how scammers exploit its platform. While that’s true to some degree, it will also give users more privacy.
Still, Facebook notes that it “designed this safety feature to work with full encryption.”
Although it’s unclear how long it will be before fully encrypted messages arrive, the design of this feature suggests that it may be sooner than later.