You’ve seen those pictures posted on Facebook “type ‘move’ into the comments and watch what happens” or “If I get a million likes my dad will get me a car.” They seem innocent enough, but they are big business, and you are not doing yourself any favors if you like or comment.
The classic example is a colorful picture of a prism with the image from the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album in it. It’s accompanied buy the caption: “OMG it really works ♥ Step 1: Click on the Picture. Step 2: Hit Like.Step 3: Comment "MOVE" Then see the Magic!!” You see in your news feed that your friends have liked and commented on the image, so clearly something amazing must happen when you interact as directed. So you click, you comment, and... nothing happens.
Or at least you think nothing happens. But your activity has now spread this image and the page into the news feed of all your friends.
It’s called Like Farming. Here’s how it works. Someone creates a page and starts posting photos inspirational quotes or other innocent content. You like the page and it now shows up regularly in your news feed. Anytime you interact with a post, that activity shows up in your friends’ news feeds.The more likes the page gets, the more it shows up. The more comments each picture gets, the more power the page gets in the Facebook news feed algorithm.And that makes it more and more visible.
The social engineering of these sites is impressive, stimulating pictures like the Pink Floyd image described above or moving stories of‘causes’ that need your likes for support. The most famous of these revolved around a girl called “Mallory”
"This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome (sic)and doesn't think she's beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful." But there is no Mallory. The picture is of a girl named Katie whose mother is horrified that her daughter’s image is being used for the scam.
Scammers Are Making Money Off Your Likes
So why would the owners of these fan pages go to such lengths to scam us into liking? Because there’s money to be made from them.
When the page gets enough fans (a hundred thousand or more)the owner might start placing ads on the page. Those ads show up in your news feed. They could be links to an app, a game, or a service they want you to buy. It could be a “recommendation” for a product on Amazon where the page owner gets a commission for every purchase made through the link. Or more nefariously, the page owner could be paid to spread malware by linking out to sites that install viruses on your computer for the purposes of identity theft. Bottom line: access to your news feed is lucrative.
[Related: Why (and How) to Turn Off SocialCam]
Fan Pages For Sale
Just as a magazine that sells ads, these pages are a business, and they can be bought and sold just like any other business. Online message board, Warriorforum.com listed multiple sites for sale like this page with almost 500,0000 fans of hamburgers. Price tag to buy the site: $5000. Another site about cuddling has over a million fans and was listed for sale on Warrior Forum for $7000. Many of these postings on Warrior Forum come and go for fear that Facebook will find out about them and take the sites down. For example, I found this Friends TV show page for sale for $8500 but the Warrior Forum listing has since been removed. This page has 1.8 million likes and posts a note right on Facebook stating it’s for sale – no price listed – just a warning against “low offers.”
A spokesperson for Facebook says selling pages is specifically against the terms of service, and any page that is sold or engages in fraudulent behavior can be removed. But clearly this is a cat and mouse game,with Like Farms popping up on a regular basis.
How To Unlike
If you’ve liked something and now regret it, you can unlike it. Go to your profile,choose “more” button and choose “likes” from the drop down menu – then “Unlike.”
If you have friends who are over-liking on scammy posts,share this on your Facebook Page so they’ll get the message.
[Related: Hidden Dangers of Penny Auctions]