Facebook acts on fake ‘likes’

 
Facebook lgo

"A 'like' that doesn't come from someone truly interested in connecting with a page benefits no one." So begins a blog entry posted by the Facebook security team on Friday. It might look a statement of the obvious - but it signals that the social network is finally emerging from its state of denial about the true value of "likes", which have been presented as a valuable currency to advertisers.

Back in July, we questioned the worth of "likes" and asked whether Facebook was awash with questionable accounts which appeared to like just about anything. But the company was dismissive of our Virtual Bagel experiment which had managed to gain 3,000 "likes" for a non-existent business in a few days by placing some adverts. Fake accounts were not a serious problem and getting thousands of dubious "likes" was not the experience of most advertisers, Facebook told us.

But now the message has changed. The security team at the company is warning that it is now acting to remove "likes" on pages that "may have been gained by means that violate our Facebook terms." That includes fans that have been bulk bought by companies - there is a healthy trade in likes as a quick search will show - and others generated by spam accounts or malware.

Our research showed that all sorts of big brands which boast about the millions who have given them the thumbs up appear to be "liked" in rather unlikely parts of the world. And when we looked at some of the "likers" - for my virtual bagels and for some other pages - quite a few of them seemed to be engaged in "liking" everything they saw, with thousands of businesses benefitting from their admiration.

That kind of behaviour - whether genuine or the result of some automated system - is raising questions about Facebook's usefulness as a platform where businesses can engage with consumers. One correspondent put it to me like this:

"What marketing or demographic value does Facebook see in the fact that an 11-year-old girl I know - who is on Facebook, yes - 'likes' American Express? She doesn't even know what it is, and is 10 years from being able to have an American Express card, at the least."

Now, though, Facebook says it will act to remove those questionable "likes" - which would include an 11-year-old girl if the company could work out its users real ages. The social network says that on average less than 1% of "likes" will be removed, and the move will benefit both businesses and users because the system's integrity will be reinforced.

But some brand owners will no doubt wake up to the fact that the love they thought they were getting from Facebook users is not quite as heartfelt as it appeared. And that in turn may make them "like" Facebook's adverts just a little bit less.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 52.

    Facebook is a "free" service? It takes your data and sells it to companies and then puts their adverts on your facebook page. When my wife and I visited Venice and signed in from there we had weeks of Italian adverts on our page. But I am OK with that. I keep in touch with distant friends and take no notice of the adverts. My browser works in stealth mode so they can't track me so all is good.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 51.

    I've also deleted my facebook account. Too much invasion of privacy by aggressive marketing cookies and unwanted features like timeline. I always regarded my use of it as an experiment to see whether I could cope with social networking - discovered it wasn't worth the time or bother - *unlike*

  • rate this
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    Comment number 50.

    Even in this article he drops the name of a credit card company and just in case you missed he drops it again in the next line, mention and repeat is a great way to remember something, He could easily have and should have said "a certain well known credit card" instead of dropping the trademarked copyrighted business name twice in an article that has no relevance on a world news site 'for free'

  • rate this
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    Comment number 49.

    I almost feel like i have several puppet accounts who feel the same way, thankfully this is not the case and I am not the only person left in Britain whose life does not revolve around social networking sites or the twittering of twits (just one vowel) and the celebrity chunder that is swamping the areas that used to be reliable for world news albeit from their own self interested perspective.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 48.

    Every post deleted questioned the validity of the news herein and the reporter presenting it, regardless what he is reporting it seems he drops the names of big brands relevant or not and I pointed this out after I couldn't help notice it after reading several articles in the 'More from Rory' links. Kudos ElephantTalk good to see i am not the only one challenging the face value presented

  • rate this
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    Comment number 47.

    Rory, I see that the BBC have not changed your job title to 'Social Media Correspondent' yet. More technology, less Facebook and Twitter please...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 46.

    Come on Rory, let's have some proper tech news instead of this tedious nonsense about Disgrace Book.

    ..and, Mods, why don't you publish Rob's posts and let us decide if they are suitable or not???

  • rate this
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    Comment number 45.

    Dear Mods, please try and apply any of my deleted posts to the complete rules of posting on the site as well as the rules you sent me reasoning their deletion, none of it even remotely applies. Please reinstate my deleted posts and a little of my belief in the integrity of the BBC News site at the time

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    Deletion reasons

    Are racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable. Contain swear words or other language likely to offend"

    I am not trolling or being offensive, Rob is my own real name i'm asking genuine questions based on my feeling and thoughts after reading several of this reporters articles, again what are the comments for if not discussing the news?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 43.

    I get it, we should to accept the news as given and the reporter as a heavenly trustworthy information provider! Have I got it all wrong? Are these comment boxes just for us punters to argue with each other? Any post questioning the quality of the news and reporter should be instantly deleted seems policy, send formula excuse email stating broadband deletion reasoning that doesn't fit, sorted

  • rate this
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    Comment number 42.

    How can we be expected to post? You sent me the rules after my first removal, I read them thoroughly and adhered to them precisely in every post since but my posts continue to be removed, how can we possible mark when, where and what to post when you move the hurdles after we have jumped? What are the comments for if not for discussing the validity of the news and the reporter of said news?

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Apparently questioning the validity of the news within the article in plain and clear English using no offensive language or extreme of opinion constitutes a breaking of house rules deserving reactive moderation

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 38.

    Despite the moderators removing my last post making the same point, Facebook is no more about technology than listening to Radio One is about electrical engineering

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    Yet again, Zuckerberg and Co's faceplant followed by our facepalm. Rory, this is just not news.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 35.

    Cheers Mav thanks for your guidance, you are spot on for the planet Mars but the Rover is about the most advanced piece of technology in use today and surely every cog of it that moves is of more relevance and newsworthy than anything that could or has happened on facebook or the latest Iphone lawsuit

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 34.

    @28 Rob

    Your looking for "Science and Environment" mate, not technology :)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19423586

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    equally annoying and bogus are the pictures of animals or children enduring some kind of suffering saying 'click Like to Save Me' as if this could save the world, stop child pornography, cure cancer and end animal cruelty.

 

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