Social Media Alias Accounts: Hidden in Plain Sight

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In lieu of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and other online data breaches, social media users have become more selective with the information they choose to share with their digital network of friends. While younger demographics have shifted towards more intimate social media exchanges through apps like Snapchat and Instagram, there is an emerging social media trend among all age groups: alias accounts.

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of alias accounts:

Gen Z: Alter Egos

With growing concerns about social media posts being viewed by college admissions departments, future employers, and virtually anyone else with access to Google, Gen Z social media users have started to partake in an emerging trend known as “finsta”, a term created for “fake Instagram”.

Per an article written by USA Today, the definition of a finsta is “a second Instagram account that many users will maintain, and its content is quite different from their real (“rinsta”) account. Think of the “rinsta” as a public persona, where users will share curated images, whereas a “finsta” is a more unfiltered experience.” For instance, instead of posting photos from a spring break booze cruise on Facebook where extended family members can see it, college-aged Instagram users would be more likely to share this type of content on their finsta accounts with only close friends.

According to CGK’s State of Gen Z report, 18% of male Gen Z users and 21% of female Gen Z users set up fake accounts on Instagram. Some examples of content that users may post on finsta accounts are as follows:

  • Screenshots of humorous text conversations
  • Unfiltered photos and videos
  • Memes

Despite the fact that these accounts are usually kept private, in the last year there has been a growing number of instances in which explicit content from finsta accounts was screenshotted or recorded and posted publicly. For example, last January a 19-year old student from the University of Alabama was expelled and dismissed from her sorority over racist comments made in a video posted to her finsta, which was recorded by one of her peers using the screen record feature on iPhone.

Politically motivated

Here at SMI Aware, our team of analysts often uncover alias accounts that are used specifically for voicing political opinions. Many people would rather create a fake account to publicly voice their views without having their name associated, especially those whose employers have strict policies regarding political expression. There has been a recent surge of these types of alias accounts since the last election, and they are often discovered during social media investigations as experienced analysts can utilize trade craft to make the connection.

Infidelity

In the past few years, there has been an emergence of websites and apps that facilitate infidelity among older demographics. Some of the most common are Seeking Arrangement, Ashley Madison, and even Tinder. Similarly to the politically-motivated aliases, the discovery of these accounts usually requires the expertise of trained Open Source Intelligence investigators such as the ones at SMI Aware.

Uncovering Alias Accounts

Regardless of age, gender, and belief systems, there is always going to be information that people wish to keep private or cover up. Often times, valuable information is hidden in plain sight, but if you don’t know where to look you could be missing out on information that could crack your case. If you would like to speak with an SMI Aware expert to further discuss the topic or learn some additional tips that may aid your search, please feel free to reach out.

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