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Technical Perspective: Fake 'Likes' and Targeting Collusion Networks

By Geoffrey M. Voelker

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63 No. 5, Page 102

The following scenario might sound like fiction. You and a million of your closest Facebook friends are going to band together to artificially improve your social networking reputation. You will willingly give a reputation manipulation service such as "official-liker.net" authorized access to your Facebook account. The manipulation service will cleverly exploit an authentication vulnerability in third-party Facebook apps to automate actions with your account. To use the service, you will view ads or pay explicit fees. The service will then use your account to "like" another Facebook account under their control—and that account will "like" yours back. You and others gain fake "likes," presumably improving your perceived online social standing, and the reputation service makes a profit.

But this scenario, and the problem it presents to Facebook and other successful online social networks, is both a very real and challenging problem: How to completely undermine this abusive activity without negatively impacting your users (who are knowingly and entirely complicit in the abuse) or changing how apps authenticate (because that would add friction to the app ecosystem).


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