Facebook Cracks Down On Fake Likes - InformationWeek

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10/7/2014
12:32 PM
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Facebook Cracks Down On Fake Likes

Facebook warns businesses to avoid schemes that promise to boost audience numbers through paid-for Likes.

Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Facebook is waging war against fake Likes, and the results have been profitable. According to Facebook site integrity engineer Matt Jones, the social network has obtained nearly $2 billion in legal judgments against spammers.

Spammers tempt unknowing businesses with schemes to boost their Facebook audience by purchasing Likes. These offers, which often promise thousands of Likes for mere dollars, are delivered by creating fake accounts or hacking into real accounts and using them to spread spam, Jones said. Because these paid-for users aren't real, Pages end up doing less business on Facebook.

"Fake likes are only profitable when they can spread at scale," Jones said in a post. "To make it harder for these scams to be profitable, our abuse-fighting team builds and constantly updates a combination of automated and manual systems that help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including registration, friending, liking, and messaging."

[Catch up on the latest Facebook updates. Read Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter.]

Some of these tactics include limiting Likes per account. When activity spikes, Facebook makes sure the Likes are legitimate by asking for additional verification. It has also pursued legal opportunities, which have amounted to nearly $2 billion in profit. Facebook did not disclose details about the judgments, but called it a reminder to spammers that it will fight back to prevent abuse on its platform.

Facebook warned businesses to avoid any schemes that promise Facebook Likes in exchange for money since you won't see much engagement with your page in return.

"Our algorithm takes Page engagement rates into account when deciding when and where to deliver a Page's legitimate ads and content, so Pages with an artificially inflated number of likes are actually making it harder on themselves to reach the people they care about most," Jones said.

Instead, Pages should focus on specific business objectives -- like driving in-store sales or boosting app downloads -- over obtaining more Likes. For businesses that need to grow their audience in order to achieve their business objectives, Facebook says you should visit the "Build Audience" tab to invite friends to like the page or pay to promote it using targeting criteria that you specify.

Lastly, Facebook encouraged Page admins to recognize and avoid malicious links that could infect your page with malware. These include links that promote a "shocking video" or "unbelievable photos of you"; visiting a website that claims to offer special features on Facebook; and downloading a browser add-on that claim to do something that alters your Facebook experience, such as seeing who's viewed your profile, changing the color of your profile, or removing your timeline.

Facebook has made an effort to cut down on other types of spam in the past. In April, it announced plans to target content that clutters users' news feeds, such as photos or videos that users and Pages repeatedly upload, and posts that explicitly ask users to comment or like in order to get more distribution. Facebook said that these types of posts are 15% less relevant than other stories with a comparable number of Likes, comments, and shares.

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2014 | 2:25:48 PM
spam
" that claim to do something that alters your Facebook experience, such as seeing who's viewed your profile, "


That's just what LinkedIn offers as enticement to get people to sign up for its premium service. 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2014 | 9:33:02 AM
Re: spam
LinkedIn's use of it is practical -- for example, to see whether a recruiter or hiring manager has looked at your profile after you submitted an application -- whereas it would be entirely vanity-related on Facebook. Spammers know that, which is why it's something they prey on.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2014 | 3:05:59 PM
Fakes
I was just discussing the concept of fake Yelp reviews. This seems like more of the same, something ethical business owners could get burned by. If a business thought a competitor was paying for Likes, is there some action they can take?
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2014 | 9:35:50 AM
Re: Fakes
The problem is that while paid-for likes boost numbers on a purely superficial level, they don't boost engagement. Engagement is what businesses want on their pages because those stats determine how often, where, and whether their posts appear in users' news feeds. The more engagement a page's posts have, the more widely they're showed. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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10/7/2014 | 6:53:44 PM
Re: Fakes
I would go so far as to say that the term "fake Like" is a redundant.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2014 | 8:05:13 PM
How big is the FB site integrity engineer's investigative staff?
It's going to take more than one Facebook site integrity engineer to convince me that digital reality has anything to do with real likes and dislikes. How big is his investigative staff? I hope it rivals the headcount of the National Railway of India (the country's largest employer). He's going to need it.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2014 | 9:39:55 AM
Re: How big is the FB site integrity engineer's investigative staff?
Years ago, likes were what you wanted. You could (and still can) buy ads to drive up your followers. Facebook's algorithm has changed since then, and likes aren't nearly as important. Facebook decides whether a page is valuable based on the content it posts. If you have 10,000 followers but no one comments, likes, or shares your content, Facebook deems your page less valuable and your content isn't shown as widely. 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2014 | 9:43:13 AM
Re: Effective business model but illegal
@WaqasAltaf That's where it gets tricky. The number of likes a page has, on a superficial level, has some weight in deciding whether a product or company has clout. The difference between organic and paid-for likes, though, is what happens after the initial like. If a company is inflating their follower count with paid-for, fake accounts, they won't see the engagement on their posts that pages with real likes do -- and in the end, that penalizes them.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2014 | 7:48:39 PM
Re: Facebook Cracks Down On Fake Likes
Better late than never, right, @freespiritny25
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