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Businesses Facebook Advertising Privacy Social Networks Spam Your Rights Online

Facebook "Like" System Devalued By Fake Users 99

Posted by timothy
from the yeah-but-have-you-see-what-real-ones-like? dept.
New submitter k(wi)r(kipedia) writes "A BBC investigation has found evidence of fake users skewing the results of Facebook's 'Like' recommendation system. The BBC set up a Facebook page for a fake business called VirtualBagel and invited users to 'like' it. The page reportedly attracted 'over 1,600 likes' within twenty-four hours. The test appeared to confirm the claims of a social media marketing consultant who contacted the BBC after he noticed a disparity in the distribution of users 'liking' the products of his clients. 'While they had been targeting Facebook users around the world, all their "likes" appeared to be coming from countries such as the Philippines and Egypt.'"
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Facebook "Like" System Devalued By Fake Users

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @06:32AM (#40647361)

    Oh, and hi from the Philippines! :) We have a very liking culture over here.

    • The "civilized west" does this as well: this link [tech.in.gr] (which I do not want you to click on, and I am only including it for reference) is from a copycat greek news site, with a 'catchy' domain name, where they inform you that if you 'like' their facebook profile you are "eligible to win the top Samsung smartphone priced at approximately [sic.] 670 euros". Their pages are full of sneakware/trackware as well.
  • nothing about.

    I actually read the article and still dont really know what this is about.

    Why would people just go around liking stuff.

    • Its about spam.

    • by Quick Reply (688867) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @06:42AM (#40647387) Journal

      Probably bots trying to establish a presence and thereby appearing to be a legitimate account when the try to friend people who might accept them even if they don't know them. Once in a friends list they can use it for viral marketing and/or theft of personal data.

      • Indeed. These will be all the Egyptian Facebook bots set up during the Arab spring by the CIA as fake grassroots and are currently sitting around bored since theyve been laid off

        Bots need to feel wanted too.
    • The scam is simple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @06:43AM (#40647389)

      Facebook lets them send messages to others telling them they 'like' something. So they 'like' it, then get to send the spam message advertising their viagra/rolex/whatever they're trying to sell.

      Simple really. If 98% of email is spam, them likely 98% of likes are spam too.

      "Earlier this year Facebook revealed that about 5-6% of its 901 million users might be fake - representing up to 54 million profiles."

      If 5% of their users are fakes, that's 45 million, if each likes 5000, thats 200 billion fake likes. The bigger question is why do advertisers imagine that Facebook pages are somehow more traffic'd than Internet pages, when every facebook user is an internet user, but not every internet user is a facebook user.

      It's like putting adverts in second life, remember that?

      • by dredwerker (757816) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @06:59AM (#40647433)

        Facebook lets them send messages to others telling them they 'like' something. So they 'like' it, then get to send the spam message advertising their viagra/rolex/whatever they're trying to sell.

        Simple really. If 98% of email is spam, them likely 98% of likes are spam too.

        "Earlier this year Facebook revealed that about 5-6% of its 901 million users might be fake - representing up to 54 million profiles."

        If 5% of their users are fakes, that's 45 million, if each likes 5000, thats 200 billion fake likes. The bigger question is why do advertisers imagine that Facebook pages are somehow more traffic'd than Internet pages, when every facebook user is an internet user, but not every internet user is a facebook user.

        It's like putting adverts in second life, remember that?

        Thanks for the explanation because that was definitely not in the BBC article.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Facebook lets them send messages to others telling them they 'like' something.

        How? I only see messages from people who are in my friend list.

        I'm not sure what they're implying here but if Facebook charges VirtualBagel by the number of "likes" then the only person who can profit from this is Facebook.

      • I don't personally use FB, but my wife has a business with a heavily liked Facebook page. She has made the same observation about many of the likes coming from Egypt, Philippines, etc.

        From what she's told me, when you "Like" something you can tell your friends, but you have to be friends with them anyway in which case you can already send them messages. Similarly, you can post on the company's page, but you can already do that without "Liking" it (and her page doesn't get very much spam - maybe one message

        • by drawfour (791912)
          I don't think that users get to directly communicate with other users who "liked" something, but they do still have a way to communicate their spam. If you like "The Big Bang Theory", and then whoever owns "The Big Bang Theory" account makes a post, everyone who "liked" it sees it in their news feed and can comment on it. So the spammers just wait for companies to post something, and then they can spam the conversation. That's the best I can see it would do for them.
      • The bigger question is why do advertisers imagine that Facebook pages are somehow more traffic'd than Internet pages, when every facebook user is an internet user, but not every internet user is a facebook user.

        They don't. They imagine Facebook users will be easier to track, market to, and (most importantly) market through. Every Facebook user is a potential advertising channel.

    • nothing about.

      I actually read the article and still dont really know what this is about.

      Why would people just go around liking stuff.

      Why the hell have I been modded down? Its obviously a valid point as people have replied.

      • Why the hell have I been modded down? Its obviously a valid point as people have replied.

        Having some replies does not represent the quality of your post, and there is not much to reply to when you make the first post either.

        • Why the hell have I been modded down? Its obviously a valid point as people have replied.

          Having some replies does not represent the quality of your post, and there is not much to reply to when you make the first post either.

          I posted something to do with the article and a question and I was modded down. I just don't get why. I mod all the time. It wasn't frivolous and it was on topic beats a lot of slashdot posts :)

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      People are annoyed by the Like buttons and write generators to like any Like button they can find.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @06:57AM (#40647425)

    So if I understand this correctly, they're saying that some of the people on Facebook are real?

  • What to gain? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:01AM (#40647435)

    What do fake users gain by Like-ing a fake business page?

    Isn't it more effective for fake users to like something that at least gives them some money in some way? I mean, spam lives from money, right?

    • Re:What to gain? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:52AM (#40647707)

      What do fake users gain by Like-ing a fake business page?

      As I understand it, once they've "liked" the page, they can then post spam messages on that page.

      The irony of course being that this effort is presumably worth-while to the spammers, and thus seems to confirm the argument that some advertising companies are making, that they get better results by just focusing on their own FB page and building a community and not bothering with FB advertising.

    • It helps to fool Facebook's anti-fraud mechanisms. If a page has thousands of likes, all from accounts that like nothing else, it will look very suspicious. By having their bots like random pages all over facebook, the operators make those accounts look more like legitimate users with diverse interests.
    • by istartedi (132515)

      What do fake users gain by Like-ing a fake business page?

      If by "fake user", you mean "the person behind the fake account", then there could be any number of reasons. First, they might not know the business is fake. In that case, they could just be liking *everything*, hoping that something good will come of that. There's no penalty for liking something other than your time, which is meaningless if they're doing this with bots and some kind of intelligent filter. The upside is that they might get free

  • For it to have been devalued you'd have to assume it had any value in the first place.

    • For it to have been devalued you'd have to assume it had any value in the first place.

      No, it can have negative value.

  • Misleading headline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nursie (632944) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:19AM (#40647503)

    It implies there was value in it in the first place.

    Oh, you mean value for advertisers to report to their bosses how well they were doing because so many people 'like' their stuff. Seriously? That's the best metric you assholes have at the moment?

    What's not clear from the article is what was in it for the fake or foreign accounts that 'like' things regardless - is this facebook pretending that advertising there works or is this third party likers with am unknown agenda?

    • The point is, facebook "likes" are as meaningless as your relationships with most of the people on your "friends" list.

      • by Nursie (632944)

        Strange, I actually socialise with all the people on my friends list, but then it's about 35 people long and consists only of actual friends.

        You must be thinking of someone else with your snarky comment.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:24AM (#40647523)
    A friend of mine's brother is in a start up company that does this for money. They call it advertising and they swear its just as legitimate as other types of ads. Not just facebook likes, but trying to farm various sorts of social media in attempt to "make things go viral". He told me he thinks that 60% of all trends are made up this way by some company like his. Oh, there are lots of companies that do this.
    • by lennier (44736)

      He told me he thinks that 60% of all trends are made up this way by some company like his.

      Is his boss named Hubertus Bigend by any chance?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:34AM (#40647581)

    "Like" has zero value in the absence of "Dislike".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:49AM (#40647691)

    Let's start a random poll.

    I have about 15. Only 3 are active outside of my real life account (two different FB games I play as time wasters). The others are alts I used for helping myself when playing games. Thank goodness there are people out there who've created scripts to automate the boring functions of the game.

    If you told me I'd get free poker chips or a good weapon or maybe an upgrade for my ovens in Cafe World (yes I'm joking), I'd go like whatever page you wanted me to from as many accounts as need the help. If a bonus item is giftable, that means I'm clicking like 15 times and sending it across to the main account that plays that game.

    My more successful alts (of the active ones) are women, they get more random friend requests (so random game items, free clicks when I want help in a game). Games on facebook want you to spam your "friends", so I created fake accounts and use those to spam the randoms who add my account because it has a sexy profile pic instead of hassling my real life account like they want me to.

    I'd suggest a large number of people playing Zynga's Mafia Wars are fakes, energy accounts gathering loot to gift across to the main account. Their recent attempts at limiting automation/autoplayers are the reason why game numbers are way down. (They're also making stupid changes in the game and getting rid of real life people, which isn't helping).

    I once posted "will cyber for loot" on my status and got a LOT of free stuff sent to me in Mafia Wars. That account has a profile pic that looks a lot like Amber Herd. (I figure I'm an honorary lesbian by borrowing a female persona, so why not.) I didn't follow through on the offer, I didn't need to - no-one even asked, they just sent me a whole bunch of stuff.

    The attractive women profiles are handy if I want to find out about someone on facebook, say a real life person and I want to view more detail on their FB account. My real life account is totally disconnected from the fake accounts so I can safely send a friend request to every male in the target person's friends list and at least one will accept every time. This means I end up as a "friend of a friend" any many default security options in facebook allow friends of friends to see stuff that general users can't. Facebook are tightening up a little these days so that is less effective, or at least it was until timeline came in. If you don't manually go and modify your post history, some things are open to anyone.

    Lastly - I was playing Zynga poker with one of my alts, got bored and flicked over to my real life FB account (which is game spam free, and recruiter friendly), then saw this posted on the slashdot facebook page in my newsfeed. I think that's irony but Alanis Morissette has me eternally confused about that.

    • 15 Facebook accounts and going through all that trouble just to play Facebook games or spy on others? I'm really tempted to offer you the "go get laid" - advice.

      • by cffrost (885375)

        15 Facebook accounts and going through all that trouble just to play Facebook games or spy on others? I'm really tempted to offer you the "go get laid" - advice.

        Many people have difficulty connecting and socializing across an air gap.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've easily setup a couple hundred sock puppet accounts. I use iMacros to login/out and perform tasks like clicking like or posting comments. It's useful for getting pages and conversations started and making them appear moderately popular. I do this with a half a dozen other people with a similar number of fake accounts. Total we have more than a 1000 fake accounts between us. I would assume the real number of fake accounts is 40-50%, if not higher.

      • by pitchpipe (708843)

        Total we have more than a 1000 fake accounts between us.

        And this my friends, is just one of the reasons why you'd have to be a total fucking nutjob to own FB. How do you know what the real numbers are?

    • Thanks for giving an extended explanation and good concrete examples.

      But I would say it's a lot simpler to explain.

      Once "Likes" can be traded for something of value, people will begin cheating to that thing of value.

      It happens with everything. Pay-per-click spawned meaningless fraudulent clicks, so you can be sure pay-per-like will do the same.

      It's just not a lot more complex than that.

    • The silly thing to me is that among those who do 'cyber', the term is actually considered very vulgar. Or at least, among my crowd. I've never tried it with an outsider. Maybe the language is different in other channels.
    • by tbird81 (946205)

      My girlfriend had about 6 fake accounts just to play Pet Society - you got rewarded for every friend you visited. Fortunately she stopped playing this after everything needed to be purchased with real money, and many of those fake accounts were spotted (she didn't do anything to disguise them as real, even the names were ridiculous).

    • Only about 10 here. More as time goes on.
      Every group I join has a different account. Each of my groups of friends has a different account. And a few accounts for free stuff in non-facebook games (eg League of Legends Tristana.)
    • by Mana Mana (16072)

      > I think that's irony but Alanis Morissette has me eternally
      > confused about that.

      Ironical---there's a word for that.

  • way bigger problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:09AM (#40647809)
    1,600 likes from fake people pales in comparison to 500,000 fake likes from real people for a drawing or giveaway. EVERYONE is now doing a like us on facebook, win a ______ giveaway deal. I bet Newegg and Tiger Direct got over a million likes during their repeated like-based giveaways. Yeah, I actually like Newegg but I don't much care for Tiger Direct quite the same. But for a free chance at a gaming computer, I'd like the hell out of them. That's a problem because any idiot can spot a fake profile easily but fake likes from real people devalue the whole system much worse.
    • by game kid (805301)

      Yeah, if people havent realized groups are not seeking and getting what I call "favor likes", then they are clearly in the Mike Gravel Housing Program ("Hiding under a rock!"). Any ranking of pages by likes is inherently skewed, if not completely worthless and useless but to the marketers behind each page.

      I also consider asking people to Like a page via a TV commercial one of the least classy things a (big, in particular) company can possibly do. You managed to land a goddamn TV commercial; by doing that

  • by Rambo Tribble (1273454) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:46AM (#40648043) Homepage
    Facebook being devalued by users, even fake ones, is a refreshing change from Facebook characteristically devaluing users.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:47AM (#40648051)
    I was not aware that anyone placed any value in facebooks "like" system in the first place...
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:47AM (#40648439)
    I've always been a bit uncomfortable to "Like" a company in Facebook. Paying for the particular company's products should be enough liking for them, no more cocksucking needed.
  • It was over a few years ago. Companies like this just take forever to die. Look at aol. Im sure some grandma in 10 years will still be on facebook, giving the companies corpse a few more bills to buy some crack.

    • by ethanms (319039)

      Facebook will be "over" when a replacement has started to seriously pull away it's users. At the moment this is not happening.

      I know there is always a desire to be counter-culture, but the reality is that Facebook is a popular site used by millions (billions?). Many of these people are using it like a virtual public park--you show up, you meet friends, you spread information, tell jokes, share pictures and stories--This is not a new concept of course, it just happens to be that Facebook is doing "best" at

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)

        True, but you must consider what drives facebook. Most people dont post much, they put up a picture and a few comments. Or if they do post a lot, no one is reading. There are few people that generate a lot of interest and discussion, and those are they people most willing to move on, and their audience follows them.

  • I'd been wondering who keeps 'liking' videos on porn tubes.
  • There seems to be large groups of these fakes users who are connected by a few different command and control centers . I see a few use cases .... Scenario 1. You as a buisness pay for "likes" from them and real users stumble upon your page and think wow they are liked by 222,000 people they must be good/legit. Scenario 2. They use the fake users to like their own buisness/product/service to make it seem more legitimate. The business could be real or it could be FAKE and used for nefarious purposes Scenario
  • I've been pointing this out for some time now. See my paper "Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social". [sitetruth.com] As soon as some social signal feeds into search ranking, it gets spammed.

    Social spamming is cheaper and easier than classic link farm spamming. Link farms cost money to set up and run. Social spam is hosted for free by Facebook, Google, Yelp. etc. Attempts to stop this have not been successful. Even if 80% of fake accounts are killed off, that just means the spammers have to run more fake

  • The bots that create and operate these fake user accounts are probably smarter than the average real facebook user.

  • There are loads of place on the internet where one can buy a "Like", places there one can trade them, and possibly other barter systems.

    There are "users" that have 10's of thousands of "friends", these are purely created to promote a company, product, etc.

    Much of Facebook is just for ego boosting, both for the users, and for the company. Facebook pretends that there are "125 billion friend connections", and that is a load of crap. Most of those are the "124 billion 'some-one' connections"... because many pe

  • What value did Facebook's popularity button ever have?

  • "Agung Pratama Sevenfoldism, showed his date of birth as 1997 and said he had been a manager at Chevron in 2010."

    I'm pretty sure the manager at my local gas station is 13 too... so what's the big deal?

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