Does LinkedIn police its own rules?

Ash Nallawalla

24 September 2011


Unlike the majority of LinkedIn users, I pay for my account and I advertise there (as do my clients), so I have a lower tolerance to lax quality control within LinkedIn.

Fake Accounts

I used to belong to some SEO discussion groups (inside LinkedIn) when I noticed that Halle Berry was a participant, except that this was a blonde with the most implausible profile and a strong interest in SEO and techy topics (based on her group activity). I complained to LinkedIn customer service and they replied saying that they didn’t see anything amiss. This Halle is still an active account.

A year later I reported a profile who claims to work for an SEO company in the US Virgin Islands. The company’s website is owned by an SEO who lives in Ahmedabad, India. They play tag-team in the LinkedIn groups. Quite harmless, since the Indian SEO could have simply posted an article and pointed to it as a discussion.

There was a better reaction from customer service this time, the first three on the same day:

We’ve received your message and we’re working to get you an answer. If you have a Premium account or you’re a LinkedIn Ads customer, we strive to reply within 24 hours. For all other members, we do our best to respond within 48 hours. We’ll get back to you soon!

Next, from the Privacy Team:

We rely on the profile owners and members like you to keep information on LinkedIn as factual as possible. Please provide us with any of the following information so we can investigate this further:

1. Name of the member(s).
2. An email address of the profile owner.
3. A URL link or screenshot of the profile(s).
4. A description of the positions and/or qualifications in question.

Thanks for your assistance in keeping LinkedIn a professional and trustworthy site, Ash.

Thanks for letting us know about this situation.

We will investigate this issue further and act upon our results.

Thanks for your assistance in making LinkedIn a professional and trustworthy site.

Then, from Customer Service:

I have forwarded your message for additional review and advice. We will be in contact with you as quickly as possible.

Thanks for your patience, Ash.

Finally, 10 days later, after reminding them — from the Privacy Team:

Thanks for letting us know about this situation.


We will investigate this issue further and act upon our results.

Thanks for your assistance in making LinkedIn a professional and trustworthy site.

Nothing further was heard and I haven’t reminded them. They didn’t “act on their results” unless they are a gullible lot and believed the account is real. I wasn’t particularly concerned other than to test LinkedIn’s processes.

Link Generation Haven

Lots of group users know that it is easy to post a “discussion” that is simply a link to their article at some external site. The links don’t pass any PR, but there’s always some possible citation value and there’s some free traffic. If you have a Premium account, you can create your own discussion group, even if it is the 10,000th group about digital marketing or what-have-you. If you are lucky, you might get a few hundred participants who can be exposed to your promotional messages. No need to delete off-topic posts and self-promotions. Cheap advertising for $19.95 a month.

The Real Name Rule

Jason Chu posted a real discussion entitled “Do you know that LinkedIn can close your account if the name field of your account reflects information other than your first and last name.” (Yes, he forgot to give it a subject, so the first sentence was used). He linked to the LinkedIn User Agreement, which mentions rule 10B3, which reads (Don’t undertake the following):

Create a user profile for anyone other than a natural person;

I don’t know what inspired him to post that observation other than to bring traffic to a LinkedIn group he is connected with, so I asked him. Seems he (or an algorithm) has blocked me, a first for me on LinkedIn:

Fake Accounts Galore

Keep in mind that every profile creates an extra page that attracts an ad or three, so there is no incentive for LinkedIn to remove profiles en masse. They do remove ones of dead people very quickly, as I reported one for the late John Costello, one of my former editors at ComputerWorld Australia.

Recently an unnatural person with an unusual name of Click Marketing kept trying to connect with me. No, I didn’t complain.


LI free

Without labouring the point further, if you use the Advanced Search form to look for any dictionary word as a Name or Surname and located Anywhere, chances are that you will find unnatural persons galore. Try some of the following, and any swear words you know:

Advertise on LinkedIn?

I recently ran an ad targeting the Melbourne area with a potential audience of a few thousand people. I didn’t even get a single click. I suppose that’s better than getting clicks that didn’t convert, but after removing all those unnatural persons, I wonder if there were any genuine humans in the target group.

LI ads
No clicks

When thousands of businesses are getting free ads by posting fake profiles that LinkedIn won’t delete, should you and I bother to advertise on LinkedIn?


Porn ad on LinkedInA recruitment website with millions of profiles and mostly free users can’t afford to have a large contact centre to deal with non-revenue complaints. A large user base usually impresses investors. Why waste spend time to clean it up? What do you think?


Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. SEO consultant.

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  • Bill Slawski on 26 September 2011

    There’s someone on LinkedIn who claims to work for my company and doesn’t.

    I wrote to LinkedIn and asked nicely to either remove the profile, or remove the statement that they worked for SEO by the Sea, or at least remove the connection between that person and my company on LinkedIn.

    They ignored it. I wrote again, and they removed the connection between that person and my company. But, the fake profile is still there, and the profile still claims to be an employee of my company.

    I’m not as likely to rely upon the information that I find on LinkedIn if people can create fake profiles there, possibly to scam others by creating some fake social proof of something like employment.

    • Ash Nallawalla on 26 September 2011

      That’s sad. Internet resumes make it easier to fake one’s background. This could be a natural person using their real name, which would make it a different issue.

      The strange thing is that if I sign in and search people by company, this person comes up as Private, whereas I see three instances for them if I search Google with the link: operator

  • Mark Chambers on 21 November 2011

    That really is concerning. I know it must be difficult to police 135M profiles, but to have a canned response, that sounds bad to boot, is rather disheartening.

    I have been using LinkedIn since 2005 and have always had a high view of them. I guess when you reach a point where you are battling the likes of Facebook, perhaps your focus on what is important begins to shift – quantity vs. quality.

    I still love the platform but I guess I got a glimpse of the ugly underside.

    Good post Ash. Thanks.

  • Craig Welch on 1 December 2011

    Here’s my favourite LinkedIn person:

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