Offshore 'click farms' dupe to inflate social media counts
By The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, 6:48 p.m.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Celebrities, businesses and even the State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore “click farms,” where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs-up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.
Since Facebook rolled out almost 10 years ago, users have sought to expand their social networks for financial gain, winning friends, bragging rights and professional clout. And social media companies cite the levels of engagement to tout their value.
But an Associated Press examination has found a growing global marketplace for fake clicks, which tech companies struggle to police. Online records, industry studies and interviews show companies are capitalizing on the opportunity to make millions of dollars by duping social media.
For as little as a half cent each click, websites hawk everything from LinkedIn connections to make members appear more employable to Soundcloud plays to influence record label interest.
“Anytime there's a monetary value added to clicks, there's going to be people going to the dark side,” said Mitul Gandhi, CEO of seoClarity, a Des Plaines, Ill., social media marketing firm that weeds out phony online engagements.
Many businesses, whose values are based on credibility, have teams doggedly pursuing the buyers and brokers of fake clicks. But each time they crack down on one, a more creative scheme emerges.
When software engineers wrote computer programs, for example, to generate lucrative fake clicks, tech giants fought back with software that screens out “bot-generated” clicks and began regularly sweeping user accounts.
Dhaka, Bangladesh, a capital city of 15 million in South Asia, is an international hub for click farms.
The CEO of Dhaka-based social media promotion firm Unique IT World said he has paid workers to click on clients' social media pages manually, making it harder for Facebook, Google and others to catch them.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NYPD Twitter photo request fails as hashtag becomes bash-tag
- ‘Nightmare’ killing of 2 Iraqi youths detailed during military hearing
- Blue Angels accused of misconduct
- Ga. lifts limits on guns in public
- Budget cuts may ground fabled U-2s
- Hearing to determine fate of sergeant accused of killing 2 deaf Iraqi boys
- FCC nears vote on ‘net neutrality’ rules
- Future of TV hinges on high court ruling on antenna technology
- Justice Department’s new rules would offer clemency to inmates with no violent history
- 126 years later, ship located in Calif. bay
- Rival Palestinian to make another attempt at uniting