November 13, 2012
For a medium meant to inform, the Internet often misleads — with phony followers and rumors on Twitter, false reviews on consumer websites, and fakery on Facebook, to name just a few examples. As The New York Times reports, shams are an especially acute problem on Facebook, the world’s largest social network, because they undermine its basic premise. The company assures its users that “Facebook is a community where people use their real identities.”
Advertisers want real people they can sell to, so fraudulent “likes” threaten their trust in Facebook — and by extension, the site’s ability to make money from those advertisers. The problem is that false profiles are easy to create — hundreds can pop up simultaneously, sometimes with the help of robots, in a bid to spread malware. Fake Facebook friends and “likes” are sold online to users seeking to enhance their image, and phony coupons trick people into revealing their personal information.
Last June, Facebook reportedly said that of its 855 million active users, 8.7 percent, or 83 million, were duplicates, false or being used to spread spam. The company says it has recently increased its efforts to cull fakes from the site. As the Times reports, Facebook’s new aggressiveness toward fake “likes” became noticeable in September, when brand pages started seeing noticeable dips in their fan numbers. — Greg Beaubien