Badvertising

Facebook Accused of Pushing Fake Likes for Brands

Viral video explains why click farms are bad for business

Derek Muller explains it all. (Screengrab: YouTube)

Derek Muller explains it all. (Screengrab: YouTube)

We all know the folks at Facebook aren’t saints. Just in the past few months, they’ve steamrolled smaller startups, bribed third-rate celebs to use their product, and decided not to allow ads for marijuana. Who’s afraid of a little pot?!

And this viral video (which is blowing up this week) says Facebook’s system of likes for companies might be tainted. Take a look:

Science blogger Derek Muller posits that there are two ways to buy Facebook likes: legitimately and illegitimately.

The illegitimate way results in likes that come from “click farms” in developing countries like India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. The likes are coming from paid employees who have thrown-together profiles with almost no actual personal details — aside from hundreds or thousands of “interests” (companies) they’ve liked.

The problem, Mr. Muller says, is that the likes users earn by buying ads look identical to the ones bought by people breaking the rules. It’s possible, he says, that when you buy a Facebook ad, your likes only increase because the ads translate into these “fake” likes.

Facebook, on the other hand, asserts, “Fake likes don’t help us.” When asked to respond to the video and explain why the likes earned from buying ads resemble those from click farms so closely, a spokesperson told us via email:

“For the last two years, we have focused on proving that our ads drive business results and we have even updated our ads to focus more on driving business objectives. Those kinds of real-world results would not be possible with fake likes. In addition, we are continually improving the systems we have to monitor and remove fake likes from the system.”

A report on social media-monitoring site SocialBakers.com says Facebook is, in fact, purging the dubious likes — to the tune of 100,000. The social network admitted 8.7 percent of its accounts were fake back in August, and it appears they’re now deleting some of those 83 million accounts.

SocialBakers reports that Shakira, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber all lost 30,000 to 35,000 likes in a day. And it’s not likely those huge chunks of people all realized the artists were past their prime in one day.

At least Mark Zuckerberg has been feeling generous lately.

Follow Molly Mulshine on Twitter or via RSS. mmulshine@observer.com