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The Hidden World of Facebook "like Farms"

By Technology Review

September 24, 2014

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A study by researchers at University College London and colleagues systematically investigated the nature of so-called Facebook "like farms," services which will direct Facebook Likes to a given Facebook page for a fee.

It has been speculated that such services use bots to deliver the Likes or employ networks of real Facebook users who receive a small fee for their Likes. The researchers tested these hypotheses by creating several Facebook pages for "Virtual Electricity," which had no content except for a single sentence in the page description reading, "This is not a real page, so please do not like it." They then used Facebook ads to generate visits to five of the pages, paid four like farms to populate another eight fake pages with Likes, and then compared the two outcomes.

Their findings strongly suggest at least one of the like farms, AuthenticLikes.com, employed bots, due to very rapid spikes in likes followed by inactivity. The researchers say other services also clearly used bots, but employed methods meant to make their behavior more similar to that of normal Facebook users. The profiles used to provide like farm Likes had a much higher number of Likes than the average user: more than 1,000, compared to just 40.

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