Social media giant Facebook seems to have woken up from its slumber and is taking its business seriously after being criticized by both government agencies and individual users.
But this time instead of getting hit by the government, Facebook has taken a strong step against government-created accounts on its platform their alleged affiliation with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These accounts have violated Facebook’s guidelines by creating fake profiles of the University of Farmington– a fake university based out of Michigan.
ICE succeeded in enrolling over 600 students, 90 percent of them were international students from India. The sting operation was operated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE says the students were using a “pay to stay” scheme, set up by recruiters engaged in immigration fraud, arresting hundreds of students, some still in jail.
When indica reached out to Facebook over the news published in The Guardian about Facebook’s action against ICE, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page. Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”
For now, Facebook, an online social media and social networking service based in Menlo Park, California, has removed the five fake accounts for violating its policies and plans to engage HSI if it finds that the agency did use them. If a credible complaint is made to the company, it disables fake accounts, including those managed by undercover law enforcement personnel. The company, which trains law enforcement agencies worldwide, also clarifies that undercover accounts are not permitted. Facebook also assesses each case on its merits, and takes action that it deems appropriate according to the circumstance.
The company to better spotting of fake accounts have also implemented ‘detection technology’ that helps to block millions of attempts to create fake accounts every day and detect millions more often within minutes after creation. The social media giant with over more than 2.3 billion monthly active users also urged the community to report fake accounts, as it will help them take necessary action.
The ‘University of Farmington in Michigan,’ was established in 2015 but had no staff, instructors and educators, curriculum, or building. However, enrolled students were offered Curricular Practical Training (CPT) a work authorization if they paid the tuition fee. Each student had paid $20,000 to $25,000 to be enrolled in the fake university, which recruited students in 26 states across the US.
According to the court indictment filed by January 15, 2019, the international students who enrolled in the fraudulent university knew the university program was not approved by the US Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and was illegal.
However, before the Facebook page went down, it announced a University of Farmington conference to be held February 4-6 in Fremont, California.
When Indica called the address posted on Facebook the owner said there was no booking made, but that they offered space on rent for conferences and classes.
When Indica asked ICE on the allegations made by Facebook over fake accounts, Khaalid Walls, Northeast Regional Communications Director said, “We will decline comment as the investigation is ongoing at this time.”
“With respect to the students, ICE has administratively arrested 172 individuals formerly enrolled at the University of Farmington for immigration violations. Several have since been removed or are in various stages of immigration proceedings before the nation’s immigration courts.” Walls said.
The sole objective of such operations is to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud in the US.
This was the second time DHS created a fake university to trap students.
Not too long ago, in 2013, a fake university, “University of Northern New Jersey” in Cranford, New Jersey was set up by the United States Department of Homeland Security in order to investigate student visa fraud.
The set up was similar to Farmington University which was established in 2015 and in both cases, the universities were listed as accredited institutions and the federal agents posed as university officials. A number of Indian students enrolled into these Universities paid the required tuition fee and were granted an F-1 visa as well as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) permission without attending any classes.