Back in a more innocent age, a Facebook friend bore at least some resemblance to an actual friend: They were real people with real identities with whom one had some connection in real life.
But the online "friends" who populate Facebook are increasingly not who they say they are.
We also pushed out a fix to take care of the visible friend requests which is now complete.
Chat will be turned back on across the site shortly.
Breaking from a tendency toward anonymity in online interactions, Facebook made a visionary choice to engage real people who have offered up the intimate details of their lives.
The site's policies specifically prohibit "impersonating anyone or anything" and mandate usernames with "a clear connection to one's identity." The rule has not always been strictly enforced -- there have always been a number of accounts belonging to pets, babies, even stuffed animals.
But this founding principle now seems increasingly at risk, and with it, Facebook's attempts to encourage greater sharing, woo ad dollars and remain the primary destination for socializing on the Internet.
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Facebook is easily the most popular social network, and even users who have very little formal computer training know how to access their news feed, send a message, and search for long lost friends.
Mark Zuckerberg’s simple application has become known for breaking demographic barriers to the extreme; whether you’re 18 or 80, the heavily praised interface and the fact that you can network with your friends, grandparents, and children is a testament to Facebook’s ease of use.
The extent of the problem is difficult to quantify, even for Facebook.
Yet this apparent uptick in spam -- which has been a problem since inception -- suggests a potentially-growing fraction of the site's members have sham identities that are being used to extract personal information from legitimate users, say social media experts.