The like button is a highly interactive feature of social media giant Facebook. A British public-service television broadcaster has however revealed that hackers are hacking accounts of various people and are liking pages which the hacked user has no interest in.
Channel4 reports that at one instance, Richard Southard’s account shows that he is among the common Facebook users who likes a few dozen pages of TV shows and films. And then you find out that the count for the pages that he has liked is 4787.
Apparently, the guy is a person who likes from Sexy girls and Sex to muscle building fiber pages. Well that is not actually the case. Channel 4 has went on to track down Richard Southard and he is of the view that his Facebook account has been hacked. The man said:
- “I don’t think I’ve ever ‘liked’ something. I don’t really have time for Facebook,” he said. “I went in there a little while ago and noticed there were lots of likes. I tried to delete them, but then they came back.”
Fans for sale
The plus 4 thousand likes that have been witnessed with Mr. Southard’s account are only a fraction of the 4.5 billion likes that Facebook gets on a daily basis.
But Channel 4 is asserting that all the likes that are being seen are not real because the hackers are also playing a part in fueling them. They hack the accounts of users and flood them with a virus of black market that gives rise to those increased numbers of likes. As the users on Facebook have reached a number of 1.15 billion, many of the users follow brands on this platform and like their fan pages. This fact has made this platform a massive medium of marketing for local and international companies.
But another fact is that along with the legitimate marketing campaigns that have boosted the fan base of companies, there are also illegitimate companies which are offering fans for sale.
A feeling of discomfort
Mr. Southard is among those 1000 people who have liked a page which has been set up by channel 4 as part of their investigation.
The channel has bought chunks of fans from online companies on Facebook at a price of only 12.99 pounds per 500 fans. The company from which the fans were bought was asked to assign fans with fan pages i.e. cupcake and brownie which have been created by Rebecca Taylor who is the identity of the data baby investigation program of channel 4 news.
The likes were received in a period of three days and one of them was Southard. Another came from a chef named Penny Lewis. Along with the fan page from Rebecca, penny’s account has also liked a pennis enlargement page, polygamy uncensored page and a few other pages.
The bad thing about likes is that they show in the newsfeed of the users and can be viewed by all the friends.
- Ms. Lewis told “I never considered that there would be any reason not to feel safe about Facebook. I didn’t realize that it could be abused. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. It’s embarrassing to think that my friends would think I like some of these pages”.
A serious business
Who are the people running the businesses which are involved in such unethical practices? The company from which Channel 4 first bought their likes from was New Pixel Studio. They say that they outsourced their service and have now cancelled the service altogether as they have come to know that some of the likes that they have purchased have been induced through hacked accounts.
Channel 4 tracked down the company at the backend of the service and its name is Social Booster. When channel 4 correspondents contacted this company, one of their representative said that the company has changed hands. They refused from sharing any further information.
Channel 4 also contacted about 10 other concerns that are selling Likes for the social media platform. All these companies have refused to give any on record information about the services that they render. Several have however admitted that they are banking on fake accounts for liking specified pages.
According to the CEO of Gadget Richard Baxter:
- “There’s a lot of people doing it, people are making livings from it – it’s a very tangible thing that’s happening”.
However, this trade is booming quite a lot as a research has shown that around 14000 people are rendering these services.
Richard Baxter also told channel 4 that:
- “Unfortunately I think there are probably as many people involved in the illegitimate side of this kind of marketing, as there are in the legitimate side of marketing. This is a serious industry. There’s a lot of people doing it, people are making livings from it – it’s a very tangible thing that’s happening”.
The likes on Facebook not only makes a brand popular, but can also directly translate into cash.
Baxter further added that:
- “If you’ve created a Facebook page, its adding lots of value, there are lots of people visiting that page regularly. You could put up a small advertisement or a link to another website and generate some commission from the referral of that traffic if a sale occurs”.
How does it works
Facebook has told channel 4 that the account of Richard Southard had a malware install on it. This malware was permitting the likes to be merge to his account. The company also said that they check about 25 billion activities on a daily basis to check for fake profiles and spam. The company also told that they do not give permission for selling and buying of likes.
However Facebook has not been able to stop all of them as there is a wide variety of ways in which Facebook restrictions can be countered. So many new scams are coming up on such a frequent pace that it is quite hard to keep track of them.
A former hacker has told channel 4 that there is a certain type of malware which when installed on someone’s systems (can be done through email) allows the installer to control the Facebook account of the hacked individual. Some time ago, Stuart devised a certain program which enabled the controller to take control over hundreds of Facebook accounts and do activities like status updates, and liking photos and pages. It allowed to perform a massive number of these activities within a few minutes. However, 2 months after the program has been for sale, he received an order from Facebook which refrained him from the sale and use of the program.
In taking action on the above investigation, Facebook has removed certain pages which are flagged as having fake likes. A spokesman of Facebook told the channel that:
- “A like that doesn’t come from someone truly interested in connecting with the brand benefits no one. If you run a Facebook page and someone offers you a boost in your fan count in return for money, our advice is to walk away – not least because it is against our rules and there is a good chance those likes will be deleted by our automatic systems”.
The spokesman further said:
- “We investigate and monitor ‘like-vendors’ and if we find that they are selling fake likes, or generating conversations from fake profiles, we will quickly block them from our platform.”