Research note: This salesperson does not exist: How tactics from political influence operations on social media are deployed for commercial lead generation

Researchers of foreign and domestic influence operations document tactics that frequently recur in covert propaganda campaigns on social media, including backstopping fake personas with plausible biographies or histories, using GAN-generated images as profile photos, and outsourcing account management to paid organizations. These tactics, however, can be applied outside of the political realm. In this paper, we describe how these three tactics are leveraged to serve a commercial purpose: lead generation for sales. We conducted the first study of fake accounts with GAN-generated images on LinkedIn that engage in lead generation (n = 1,003) and offer recommendations for grappling with fake persona creation, generally, GAN-generated imagery, specifically, and outsourcing.