November 21, 2015

Fraud on Facebook?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

There are many instances of outright fraud on Facebook where people have been tricked into giving important information, making bad purchases, and so on. This is not about those third-party deceptions by sidewinders. No, this is about a different area.

Hopefully, my bad experience using Facebook's "Promote Your Page" can be a caution for others.
Modified from an image on Clker clip art
In mid-November, the option was taken using Facebook's own "Promote Your Page" option to spotlight The Question Evolution Project. There were some good articles that needed exposure, and we've done these promotions before. The targeted areas were the United States, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Indonesia (we do get visitors from non-English-speaking countries), and the promotion is toward people who have an interest in the topics we cover. When the Likes started pouring in, I realized that something was wrong.

At this moment, we show about 5,225 Likes from people who use some form of English as their selected language. According to the stats from Facebook, none of the new Likes came from the intended audience! All were from India and the Philippines. Wait, what? Some new Likes popped in from the usual areas, but apparently those were not from the promotion.

I was suspicious. New Likes, and no interaction: no comments, sharing of posts, clicking "Like" on a post, nothing. Also, I had shared my sorta new "Public Figure" Page to The Question Evolution Project, "Cowboy Bob Sorensen". That remained untouched, and the post about it was near the top of TQEP when a whole heap of Likes were commencing.

A message came in from Why?Outreach asking why the surge (we were over 6,000 by then), and I explained my puzzlement. He showed me an enlightening video about fraud on Facebook. We used the legitimate way of obtaining Likes, through Facebook (again, we've done it before). The illegitimate way is to purchase Likes, and "click farms" pay people a pittance to go hog wild with the Like button. Page Admins, take a look at the people who Like you. (I wonder if some of those Pages I've seen that skyrocket in Likes through promotions have a lot of fake Likes that the Admins don't even know about.) As the video below says, nobody can Like that many Pages! I've seen it, almost got a cramp in my finger scrolling down, and the Likes just kept on going!

When I shut off the advertising early, the influx of Likes plummeted.

Now, someone may ask, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Problem is, fake Likes hurt your Page. I spent parts of two days deleting hundreds of those newcomers. (They're not banned, if I got someone who really does care about the Page, they can come back easily enough.) But study on it for a spell: it's no secret that people get a bit rambunctious and Like Pages they never go back to, so the end result is the same. But I'd rather have someone click Like that way, than have a link farm giving inflated figures; these were way too many, way too quick-like.

Consequences of fake Likes on Facebook
Used with permission

Here's the tricky part. I want to say that Facebook itself is guilty of fraud, but I can't rightly do that. Maybe a third party caught wind of the promotion and notified a click farm, I dunno. Maybe Facebook is guilty, but I can't give a lick of evidence about that, so I don't dare make such an accusation. I reckon they would stay above board, though, because they don't need to do those unethical things, especially since they have such a lousy reputation for double standards, so why make things worse?

But that fact is, fake Likes happened, I can only guess why, and can't do anything about it. But Facebook lost a paying customer — fortunately I'm not out a lot of money this time. Now, I suggest you take a look at the nine-minute video below, the one that Why?Outreach showed me.


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