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Last night Channel 4 aired a Dispatches based around fake profiles, fans and click farming, naming and shaming companies and celebrities as they went. While this is hardly ground breaking news from the ‘award winning investigative current affairs programme’, it seems a huge number of us are still being duped on a daily basis.
Back in October of 2012 I wrote a cautionary blog post aiming to help Facebook users define between genuine charities, those seeking to help others, and those who were simply seeking financial gain by poking at user’s hearts with a pointy stick so they would ‘Like’ their page.
My mayday call was my most well received post to date, however this ship is still sinking. Every day real people are being suckered in to becoming part of like farms, dispelling the myth that this type of thing is only done with fake accounts. In fact a lot of fake followers are real people, tricked in to following.
Over the months since I wrote that post the landscape has changed, and I have built up a vast collection of new, equally spammy and pointless examples for your delectation (*you may find some images disturbing), plus an update on what Facebook and their users are doing to combat this most tedious and sometimes dangerous behaviour.
Actually, very little, apart from the terminology. The term ‘Like Farming’ seems to be banded around a lot more now. The fact that the term is becoming more common leads me to believe (read: hope) that more users seem to be coming to the realisation that liking a picture of anything from a baby to a Transformer doesn’t actually make a blind bit of difference to anything, and just serves to annoy your Facebook contacts.
Let’s quickly run through this again. A person creates a page, and posts images to pull at your heartstrings in order to get you to Like the image and/or page. Sometimes this will be pure emotional blackmail (kittens, babies, soldiers etc), sometimes they’ll mix it up, allowing you to Like or comment depending on your thoughts about the subject matter.
They then share this page throughout social media to gain as much exposure and as many likes as possible. More often than not the page will then be sold for a pretty penny, thanks to all the Likes it has gained from those unaware of such practices or just too keen for the world to know that they love fruit or hate child abuse.
I kid you not, look:
Yep, 26,000 likes and 191 comments because people like fruit. The fruit thing comes from a ‘public figure’ page called What Girls Like, I refuse to link to it but for giggles look it up. The latest post is dated March 15th and has managed to gain 124,008 Likes and 1,702 comments to date by asking if you would ‘Like’ to go to Heaven. Others posts include questions such as “Would you text God back?”, and a spot the difference where you are to ‘Like’, comment or share depending on if you think the odd one out is number one, two, or three.
Another great example comes from the ‘community’ that is ‘Girls and Boys.’ Where you will find 300,000 followers and little gems like this:
The full Facebook URL for both of these pages contains the term ‘FirstAndOffcial’ (sp), indicating that they are part of a group of these types of pages run by one company or individual to gain as many Likes, comments and shares as humanly possible…for what purpose? To sell you and all the other ‘Likers’ to slippery marketers, who rebrand the page and start spamming you with all sorts of rubbish. Either that, or the scammer themselves rebrand the page to promote yet another of their leaves of drivel, get paid to use it to spread malware, or promote something completely unrelated.
Here’s a handy chart to help you remember…
Common sense is the greatest threat to Facebook viral spam as we know it. If you think that Apple are truly giving away 4,623 iPad 2s because they cannot sell them, would you also believe that Samsung are giving away Galaxy S4s if you Like their page and Sony are handing out Playstations for comments and shares? You would? Why?
Ask yourself these questions before selling the soul of your little blue and white thumb:
Daylan Pearce has written a great post on ways to combat seeing this garbage in your news feed. By creating lists and setting different permissions you have more chance of eliminating viral spam type posts from appearing in your news feed, because, let’s face it, it’s usually the same people over and over. You can read the full post over here on Daylan Does.
I get it. If people are stitching themselves up like that let them, they’ll learn. No REAL harm done, right?
In my last post I pointed out a few examples where people had fraudulently gained a vast amount of money via these means while posing as a charity.
This time I’m going to talk about the people. Like Terri Johnson who thankfully managed to keep her daughter, Katie, blissfully unaware that her image was being used to farm Likes. Katie has Down Syndrome and her image was stolen, renamed Mallory, and Likes were to be given to ‘show her she is beautiful’.
I don’t care how they got the image, the exploitation of children is vile in any form and examples like this are the reason this ‘business’ needs to be stopped. You can read the full story here. PS that ‘you’ like is not me…
How about this little cracker of cuteness?
A page dedicated to showing the world that Autism is ‘different, not less’, that IS used by people and families of people with autism, which is good, helping raise awareness and building a community.
However some things are a little weird. For example the only contact detail for the page is the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address is also linked to pages entitled ‘I AM A PROUD MUMMY!’, ‘I HATE CANCER!’. To be fair these two pages do link back to what appears to be a bona fide charity called Sevenly. The autism page does not. I’m torn on this one because ‘Autism: Different, Not Less’ is adding value, even if the only intention was to gain Likes.
At present there is not a lot they can do except rely on vigilant users to report and block these kinds of pages. The Facebook algorithm is not yet advanced enough to be able to tell which bits of content are popular for the right reasons and which for the wrong reasons. They see these pages getting Likes, comments and shares, just the same as the big brands and genuine pages do, so it’s really down to us.
So the next time you want to show your hate for cancer, donate to one, some, or all of these guys:
The next time you want to wish a sick child better, save your spammy click and donate to one of these:
And if you REALLY feel the need to tell the world you like fruit, my Uncle has a great little stall on the High Street.
Photo Album of the Best and Worst Viral Facebook Spam Posts
As a reward for reading the entire post, follow this link to my Viral Like Spam set on Flickr see the best and worst examples I have found on Facebook. I warn you, you may find one or two distressing, and the rest very annoying!
If you have any to add please do send the link in the comments section and I will add them to the collection!
Facebook Image from Bigstock
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