Facebook’s black market problem revealed
“Advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money.”
By the time this flat statement arrives in the YouTube video “Facebook Fraud” — uploaded on Monday, and watched more than a million times by Thursday morning — viewers have been led through a fascinating tour of some troubling features of Facebook’s “Like”-based economy.
The story behind the video goes like this: Its creator, who goes by the handle Veritasium on YouTube but is named Derek Muller in real life, had long been suspicious that thousands of “likes” on a page he had paid Facebook to promote two years ago were actually bogus. So he created another Facebook page designed to be so purposely awful that no sentient being would click on it, and then paid the social network to promote that one too. People did end up clicking on it almost immediately, but in Muller’s opinion, a close examination indicated that it was unlikely that they were genuine fans of his horrible page. Most of these people were wildly indiscriminate in their “liking” behavior, clicking the like button on hundreds and hundreds of random pages. To Muller, they appeared to be fakes generated by “click farms” — sweatshops full of low-paid drones who spend their days “liking” stuff on Facebook.
In other words, they were useless. Fake likes don’t represent real “engagement” with your page. They don’t translate into comments on your posts, or result in those posts being shared with other people. And that’s a big deal, for a subtle reason: Facebook’s algorithm decides how prominently to feature your posts in News Feeds by paying attention to how often your friends and followers engage with your content. If you post something new, and all those people who previously liked your page proceed to actively comment on it and share it and like it, Facebook will automatically give that post a boost. But if all those thousands of people who have liked your page never show up, your content gets downgraded, and nobody sees it.