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  • Have you heard of Virtual Bagel? Their Facebook page has over 4,000 likes.

  • They use the page to promote their brilliant business model 'we send you bagels via the

  • Internet -- just download and enjoy.'

  • It sounds like a joke, and it is, sort of. This page was set up by BBC technology correspondent

  • Rory Cellan-Jones in 2012.

  • He wanted to find out what is the worth of a like on a Facebook page, so he bought some

  • likes for Virtual Bagel. Now there are two ways to buy 'likes', the legitimate way and

  • the illegitimate way.

  • The illegitimate way is to go to a website like BoostLikes.com purchase some likes. You

  • can get 1000 for $70.

  • Sites like these use clickfarms in developing countries like India, the Philippines, Nepal,

  • Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

  • Here employees are routinely paid just 1 dollar per thousand clicks of the like button.

  • So Facebook explicitly forbids buying likes this way.

  • Instead they offer the 'legitimate' way to pay for likes by advertising your page. Prominently

  • displayed is a link to "Get more likes" with the promise: "Connect with more of the people

  • who matter to you."

  • And this is how Virtual Bagel got its 4000 likes. Rory Cellan-Jones paid 100 dollars

  • to Facebook and the likes rolled in. He targeted his ad to the UK and the United States, but

  • also to countries like Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines. Now where do you think Virtual

  • Bagel was most popular? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't the US or the UK. But within a day

  • he had over 1600 likes mostly from developing countries.

  • Now what was more problematic was the people who followed Virtual Bagel looked suspicious.

  • For example there was one Cairo-based follower whose name was Ahmed Ronaldo.

  • His profile consisted almost exclusively of pictures of Cristiano Ronaldo and he liked

  • 3,000 pages.

  • Cellan-Jones also observed that his new throng of fans was particularly disengaged, just

  • as you'd imagine those from a click-farm would be. But he hadn't hired a click-farm, he had

  • paid for Facebook ads.

  • This story was reported in July 2012. In August, Facebook reported it had identified and deleted

  • 83 million fake accounts (that was 9% of the total at the time). This resulted in noticeable

  • drops for popular singers and celebrities.

  • So did they delete all of the fake likes? Nope, not even close. I know because most

  • of the likes on my Facebook page are not genuine.

  • In May 2012, I received a number of emails from Facebook offering me $50 worth of free

  • promotion of my page, which at the time had only 2,000 likes.

  • My YouTube channel had twenty times that following so I thought surely this free 'paid' promotion

  • could help me reach more of the people who mattered to me. And immediately I could see

  • results. Within just a few days my likes had tripled, and they kept on growing, thousands

  • per day.

  • And after a few months I had about 70,000 Facebook likes, which matched my YouTube subscribers

  • at the time. Now what was weird was my posts on Facebook didn't seem to be getting any

  • more engagement than when I had 2,000. If anything, they were getting less engagement.

  • I didn't understand why at the time, but I have since realized it's because most of those

  • likes I was gaining through Facebook ads were not from people who were genuinely interested

  • in Veritasium. How do I know? Well because fake likes behave very differently from real

  • followers.

  • Have a look at this graph of the engagement of my Facebook followers. Here I'm plotting

  • countries as bubbles, so this is Canada and the size represents the number of likes I've

  • received from that country. So this is the United States, it's a nice big bubble. Now

  • I'm ranking these countries on the horizontal axis based on what percentage of those likes

  • have engaged with my page this month. So as you can see roughly 30% Canadians and Americans

  • have engaged with my page, but they're not as active as the Germans where over 40% of

  • my likes have engaged, and they are not as active as the Austrians a small but passionate

  • group of Veritasium fans at nearly 60%

  • These are all of the other Western countries. So you can see that it's common for between

  • 25% and 35% of my page likes to engage with my page every month.

  • Now here is Egypt, where less than 1% of my likes have engaged with my page. Now this

  • is India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

  • That's a big followings, but no engagement. Together all of these countries make up 80,000

  • likes, that's roughly 75% of the total likes I had before the last video. And these are

  • the profiles that followed me when I used Facebook advertising. And they are worse than

  • useless. Here's why:

  • When you make a post, Facebook distributes it to a small fraction of the people who like

  • your page just to gauge their reaction. If they engage with it by liking, commenting,

  • and sharing then Facebook distributes the post to more of your likes and even their

  • friends. Now if you somehow accumulate fake likes,

  • Facebook's initial distribution goes out to fewer real fans, and therefore it receives

  • less engagement, and so consequently you reach a smaller number of people. That's how a rising

  • number of fans can result in a drop in engagement.

  • And from this Facebook makes money twice over -- once to help you acquire new fans, and

  • then again when you try to reach them. I mean your organic reach may be so restricted by

  • the lack of engagement, that your only option is to pay to promote the post.

  • What's worse, there is no way to delete fake likes in bulk -- all you can do is target

  • posts around them.

  • And I should re-iterate I never bought fake likes. I used Facebook's legitimate advertising,

  • but the results are as if I had paid for fake likes from a clickfarm.

  • Now you might think the solution to all this is just to exclude countries with click-farms

  • from your ad campaigns. But unfortunately the problem goes much deeper.

  • Meet Virtual Cat, a virtual pet like none other.

  • Its page is committed to supplying only the worst, most annoying drivel you can imagine.

  • Only an idiot would like this page. And that's not just my opinion, that's actually what

  • it says in the page description.

  • And I should know because I wrote it. I created this page yesterday and I then paid $10 to

  • advertise the page through Facebook targeted only to cat-lovers in the United States, Canada,

  • Australia and the UK. Now I expected that because I had excluded all of the big click-farm

  • countries and because the page is so terrible that I basically wouldn't get any likes. But

  • within 20 minutes I had blown through my whole budget and I got 39 likes. So who are these

  • people liking a blank page and costing me 25 cents a piece?

  • All of the profiles were all from the places I had targeted, mostly the US, but there was

  • something strange about them. All of these people liked a LOT of things, like hundreds

  • and thousands things.

  • And a lot of the things they liked were odd too. Like in one account this person liked

  • T-mobile, AT&T and Verizon. They liked Jeep and Lexus and Mercedes and Volvo and Volkswagon.

  • They like everything. Other accounts I saw, they liked kitchen scrubbers and they liked

  • mouthwash. Who reports that on their Facebook page? It just baffles me.

  • So the real mystery to me is why someone, somewhere would click on ads they didn't care

  • about without making money from them. I mean I don't think these likes came from bots - they

  • are too easy to identify and eliminate. And I also don't think for a second Facebook would

  • pay click-farms to click on those ads to generate revenue for them, so it really seems like

  • a mystery.

  • And then, in this article I found what I think is the most reasonable hypothesis.

  • Click-farms click the ads for free. In order to avoid detection by Facebook's fraud algorithms,

  • they like pages other than the ones they've been paid for to seem more genuine. I mean

  • you can imagine 1000 likes on a particular page coming from one geographic area in a

  • short period of time would seem suspicious. But buried in a torrent of other 'like' activity?

  • They would be impossible to identify.

  • So workers at these click-farms will literally click anything. I mean where do you think

  • Facebook's Security page is most popular? Dhaka, Bangladesh. What about Google? Dhaka.

  • What about soccer star David Beckham? It's actually Cairo, but you take my point.

  • So wherever you're targeting, advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money.

  • I wish Facebook would remove the fake likes from my page and all the others. But that

  • would mean admitting that they have generated significant ad revenue from clicks that weren't

  • genuine, which then suppressed the reach of pages who had low engagement, forcing those

  • pages to pay again to reach inauthentic fans. So the truth is Facebook benefits by maintaining

  • this status quo because the reality is nobody likes this many things.

Have you heard of Virtual Bagel? Their Facebook page has over 4,000 likes.

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臉書欺詐 (Facebook Fraud)

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    Jamie Linning 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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