After its weak debut when it started trading last May, Facebook has been bombarded by many other issues with the latest one involving a claim by some of its advertisers and partner companies that they are wasting large sums of money paying for fake “likes”. These companies raised the issue after a security expert noted that some of the profiles who click on their “like” button have lied about their personal details, while some are run by computer programs to spread spam.
“Likes” have high value in today’s marketing world. Marketing departments use it to spread company ads, news feed, messages, and alerts to a friend of a “liking” account.
Facebook, in return, makes money by demanding fees from companies so they can show advertisements to attract more likes. Some of these companies have earned millions of “likes” already.
Facebook has amassed large amounts of money from such process.
Graham Cluley, a security consultant from the security firm Sophos said that malwares can be created to mass-produce fictional Facebook accounts to spread spam to click likes in a company page. This claim is in line with Facebook’s own admission early this year that about 5-6% of its over 900 million users may be false accounts. That number rounds up to about 54 million false Facebook accounts.
According to Cluley, these false accounts are being run by some computer software controlled by a single person handing out commands such as “like” to create a sizeable community.
As a social media marketing consultant running Facebook advertising for small businesses, Michael Tinmouth pointed out that some of his clients were initially pleased with the results. After sometime, his clients noticed that although they have been targeting a worldwide audience, many of the likes were starting to come in from countries like Philippines and Egypt. Some of such accounts have suspicious personal details and were found out to be liking thousands of pages a day on average. Overall, the number of likes from these two countries were out of proportion to other countries like the UK and the US.
After this problem was raised to Facebook, it was apparent that the company has known it all along and tried to downplayed the issue of these fake profiles. According to a Facebook spokesman, the company has not seen any significant problem with this so far.
Facebook further defended itself by arguing that companies are provided access to Facebook analytics to allow them to see identities of people who clicked on their “like” button.
Facebook has a current policy not to allow pseudonyms to be used and an automated system is in place to detect and reports users doing it. As per a Facebook spokesman, “a very small percentage of users do open accounts using pseudonyms but this is against our rules and we use automated systems as well as user reports to help us detect them.”
So far, there is no policy what Facebook will do to companies who become victims of these false Facebook accounts. Mr. Tinmouth, for instance, already asked Facebook to investigate the issue further after one of his clients refused to pay for the adverts after they found out that the ads did not reach real people.