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Strangers, connections and social media

One of the major challenges of social media is letting people connect with folks they don’t know while preventing abuse. Most of the major social networks are trying.
Let’s look at LinkedIn and the tools they give users to stop abuse. Overall, they are pretty good about stopping their platform from being abused, but don’t have many processes to stop folks from harvesting connection addresses off LinkedIn and then adding those addresses to marketing lists. Does it happen frequently? No. But it does happen.
I have a pretty liberal “accept an invite” policy on LinkedIn. If people want to connect with me there and they have real profiles and they’re in a relevant space, I generally accept their invites. This means there are times when I connect with people I don’t know. I’m OK with this, LinkedIn is a great way to meet an interact with colleagues. It also means that sometimes people connect with me, take my information and add it to their marketing lists.
This morning I got an invite from Greg Williams. The name and profile looked like one I’d seen before, so I dug through my mail to see why this raised my hackles. I figured it out. Greg is president of some Tuscon area scholarship fund. A year or so ago he decided to ask all his LinkedIn connections to donate thousands of dollars to his non-profit. I decided this was not a connection I really needed on LinkedIn and removed him.
I don’t really have a connection with Mr. Williams. We didn’t go to the same schools, we don’t work in similar fields. LinkedIn tells me that we have two connections in common. I know nothing about him except that the last time I connected with him on LinkedIn he decided to take this as an invitation to spam me with money requests for his foundation. A foundation he didn’t really tell me anything other than “we give money for scholarships.”
Even more crazy is that Mr. Williams sent me an invite that says “I trust you and I’d like you to be part of my LinkedIn network.” I’m not sure who you are or who you think I am, but I don’t think you know me well enough to trust me.
I’m not against reconnecting with Mr. Williams again, but I want to be sure he understands that just because we connect on LinkedIn doesn’t mean I want to be added to his begging list. I looked for a way through LinkedIn to send Mr. Williams a response. But I can’t. My two choices are to ignore him or report spam. I think I’ll ignore him, for now.
One thing LinkedIn does to stop this problem is get feedback from users. When I click Ignore on the invite I get the opportunity to tell LinkedIn “I don’t know this person.” Hopefully, telling them I don’t know this person will stop future invites.
Social networks are a great thing and allow people to connect and create communities and interact with one another. Stopping users from abusing other members of the network is an important part of that community building framework.
 

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