Fake likes. Facebook is reportedly cracking down on them, but they’ve put a very fine point on their targeted offenders. The problem is that if Facebook were serious about cracking down on fake likes they would look in the mirror, which would probably open up a Pandora’s box more damning than their IPO. Let me explain what I mean by that….
Reading between the lines of the Facebook fake likes manifesto
Many sites are reporting on a post by Facebook entitled “Improvements To Our Site Integrity Systems,” which details what steps Facebook intends to take to eradicate Facebook from these nasty fake Likes. From their post:
“On average, less than 1% of Likes on any given Page will be removed, providing they and their affiliates have been abiding by our terms. These newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes. While we have always had dedicated protections against each of these threats on Facebook, these improved systems have been specifically configured to identify and take action against suspicious Likes.”
The issue with this is two-fold. First: more than 1% of Likes are fake Likes. If 1.5% of all Facebook accounts are malicious (this is Facebook’s number so I assume it is an ultra-conservative estimate), it seems reasonable to assume that spammers “Like” at a greater velocity than normal users. More than 1.5% of all likes must be fake Likes, but it’s nearly impossible to determine how high that number could be. Facebook probably has a better idea.
Secondly, the percentage of fake Likes on Facebook ads is much higher. Most people are familiar with Limited Run, the music site that claimed 80% fake Likes when they purchased ads on Facebook. That was a pretty unprecedented number, but allowed for more thorough analysis by the likes of Merry Morud, who details in Search Engine Watch how fake Likes on Facebook ads could vacillate between 17-28% (or slightly lower). Andrew Foxwell, involved in politics as an ad buyer reveals on Quora his anecdotal estimate of 10%.
If Facebook fake likes disappeared altogether it would wound Facebook
Although ad buyers on Facebook seem to have caught on that there is some noise in Facebook advertising, no one is aware of the extent of it. This is problematic on a number of levels.
Italian professor Marco Camisani Calzolari released a study that revealed that more that a majority percentage of large brand pages are followed by fake Twitter followers. Assuming that the brand social media channels are built by the same people, it isn’t too much of a leap to assume that the same black hat techniques are used for Facebook pages as well. Whether by running advertising or by other means, it stands to reason that:
#1 – Fake likes are far more pervasive than 1%
#2 – The companies that are most affected by fake Likes have the resources to seek remedy.
Remedy. Sure Facebook has an indemnity clause stating that they aren’t responsible for the validity of clicks, but I suspect that a company that discovered that 15% of their advertising on Facebook was bogus might seek to challenge said indemnity. And what would happen to Facebook’s stock if it was shown that their advertising doesn’t work as effectively as promised, that Facebook ignored its ineffectiveness for years and that businesses were seeking legal remedy?
Same goes for the agencies and agents who built social media profiles. If spam were shown to be so pervasive, someone would have to held responsible. Odds are we’ll never know.
This past week Twitter released a rebuttal to the StatusPeople fake follower tool by saying that most of the accounts identified as fake are just shy. It was a lame explanation trying to spin a huge problem with their platform. Facebook seems to be trying to spin their admission of pervasive fraudulent accounts as somebody else’s problem. Specifically, Facebook is claiming that fake Likes aren’t related to their advertising at all. Consider this passage from their post:
“To be clear, we do not and have never permitted the purchase or sale of Facebook Likes as we only want people connecting to the Pages and brands with whom they have chosen to connect. Beyond the need to maintain authentic relationships on Facebook, these third-party vendors often attempt to use malware or other forms of deception to generate fraudulent Likes, which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole.”
See the fine point? Facebook defines fraud as fake Likes that they haven’t sold. That makes more sense. It’s not an advertising problem, it’s a third party problem. That’s convenient.
Maybe the fake Likes that ad buyers get from Facebook are just from shy users?