Facebook Engagement-For-Hire Economy Has Generated More Than 100 Million Fake Likes

After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this week confirmed allegations that the company had sold at least $100,000 of ads to a Russia-backed troll farm – igniting a firestorm of liberal sanctimony as pundits like Rachel Maddow proclaimed that they had finally found the “smoking gun” proving that Russians had swayed the election in President Trump’s favor – researchers at the University of Iowa have pulled back the curtain on the seedy underbelly of Facebook's illicit influence-peddling economy.

In a study reported by USA Today, the researchers described a thriving ecosystem of websites that allow users to generate millions of fake "likes" and comments. Working with a computer scientist at Facebook and one in Lahore, Pakistan, the team discovered a thriving community of 50 sites offering free, fake "likes" for users' posts in exchange for access to their accounts, which were used to falsely "like" other sites in turn.

The results have been staggeringly effective:

“The scientists found that these “collusion networks” run by spammers have managed to harness the power of one million Facebook accounts, producing as many as 100 million fake "likes" on the systems between 2015 and 2016.”

Why is this a problem? The answer is simple economics. As USA Today explains, Facebook’s algorithm is designed to favor posts that garner a lot of likes, amplifying their visibility and possibly driving legitimate engagement. Many social media “influencers” rely on their followings to justify marketing partnerships with brands and other lucrative deals.

And in what the researchers described as a recent development, the scammers have found a way to “turbocharge” the process by automatically looping in third-party applications like Spotify. Previously, this process had to be done manually in resulted in far fewer likes.

After joining the community, users who are in good standing can essentially generate likes and engagement on demand.

“When you become part of this network, you can say ‘Give me likes on this post and as soon as you request it, you get thousands of likes on a specific post,” said Zubair Shafiq, a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who documented the automated networks.”


“Users think it’s relatively benign, but actually they’re handing over full control of their Facebook account,” said Shafiq.


“They can also access all the information that’s available on your profile, see your posts, get your friends list, even read your private messages. We can't tell if this information is being collected and sold to others,” he said.

In another example of the company’s penchant for dissembling, Facebook told USA Today it had stamped out the type of activity described in the research. The company added that it is investigating smaller-volume techniques that could be used for a similar purpose, and said it would take every action necessary to ensure that all activity on its platform, which the company claims has more than 2 billion monthly active users.

But an independent investigation by USA Today promptly confirmed that Facebook’s claim was bulls---.

“However at least some similar techniques still function as USA TODAY was able to join one of the networks and get 50 likes on a post to a newly-created Facebook page within one minute.


The services operate outside of the United States but hide their locations. They also disguise the fact that people who use them are engaged in activity prohibited by Facebook.”

Compounding the ridiculousness of Facebook’s denial, USA Today also found that the sites operate relatively openly.

“The sites operate openly, and researchers found them by entering a Google search for phrases such as "Page Liker." Among the 50 so-called collusion networks listed researchers listed was djliker.com, which described itself as "a social marketing system that will increase likes, comments and increase visits to pages.”

The sites rely on a “freemium” business model, profiting off of ads posted on their sites, but also from subscription fees from power users.

“Their business model is basic: They make their money by posting ads on their sites and also selling "premium" services that allow users to get even more "likes" than they allow their regular users. Some also allow users to create fake comments that can be added to the post of their choice.”

The research will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Internet Measurement Conference in London in November. Nektarios Leontiadis, one of the study’s authors, is a threat research scientist at Facebook.


ET (not verified) Sat, 09/09/2017 - 18:45 Permalink

The American economy is becoming too dependent on behavior that can be duplicated by trained monkeys and lab rats.Clicking and swiping economy.

Keyser jcaz Sat, 09/09/2017 - 20:16 Permalink

A new spin on the old con game... You need "likes" to drive a promotion or an event, spin up the old bots to get you what you want, but as always, there is a price... It's called FRAUD and FakeBook is in it up to their skinny little pencil necks... Blowing the whistle on yourself is only a duck-and-cover move to avoid prosecution...

In reply to by jcaz

Mr 9x19 OCnStiggs Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:23 Permalink

you have 320 millions people.ask how much got smartphones,  excepting kids, maybe like, 260 millions people ?how much got smartphone ? how much use FB, so know who is  zukerberg.now, how much can explain the history of the country ( i and won't go on my racist land for once )...you still think zukky wouldn'd be elected if he tried ?lol... obama was elected because of the 33% african nig... 'mericans on your ground.you let it happened,   reap what you sow...1 drone shot per 180 minutes, 8 years term, 9 trillions debt...wanna try jewish term directly ?

In reply to by OCnStiggs

Blankfuck Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:00 Permalink


Blue Steel 309 Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:15 Permalink

I have 6 facebook accounts, I haven't logged into in 2+ years.

My real one I haven't logged into in 6 months, but I keep it because I am a vet and it is the best way to reach out to them, if I need to. I consider deleting it quite often, but if their business model was legit, my not logging in would have the same effect on their legitimacy.

gregga777 Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:34 Permalink

Suckerbergstein. Anglo-Zionist FAKE NEWS Media. Suckerbergstein. Anglo-Zionist FAKE NEWS Media. Suckerbergstein. Anglo-Zionist FAKE NEWS Media.

Hmm. Can anyone see the connection?

MPJones Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:39 Permalink

Some of the business models underpinning search engines and social networks seem to approach what would be called fraud in any other context. I think experts and insiders have suspected (or known) about this for quite a number of years. I also think advertisers could do worse than re-examining their net response metrics...

Downtoolong Sat, 09/09/2017 - 19:43 Permalink

 Look around the virtual world that you’re exposed to on Facebook. Look closely. If you can’t spot the sucker, you’re the sucker, and many of the rest are “Like-ly” bots. 

Setarcos HRH Feant2 (not verified) Sun, 09/10/2017 - 03:47 Permalink

Once I found out, about 7-8 years ago, how fake it is and that an account can never be cancelled, I thought I'd Fuckerburger with it by opening three of four fake accounts - something said to be not allowed, but that's BS.  Presumably my original account is still running, but I occasionally check on only a fake one, which seems to be running autonomously, generating both "likes" and "friend" requests.  What's to stop a dedicated spoofer from opening a hundred or more fake accounts?  I wonder how many real Fakebook users there are?  Fuckerburger wouldn't care, as long as they are generating "likes".  How many actually dead people, until we all die, or some massive Carrington event wipes all data, even bitchcoins? ( Just thought I'd slip that in.)

In reply to by HRH Feant2 (not verified)

tokerhead Sat, 09/09/2017 - 22:04 Permalink

zh stop censoring comments, fuck-bags. Bye-the-way, why don't you make the site safe by using a SSL? Anybody posting shit, can easiler be intercepted since you don't use a valid SSL.

Catahoula Sun, 09/10/2017 - 09:18 Permalink

Facebook has ruined the world's populations with  mental illness, self- loathing, hypocrisy, adultery, lies, confusion, crime, etc etc. Totally useless and detrimental to the human psyche.

Mineshaft Gap Sun, 09/10/2017 - 11:16 Permalink

Pssst. Yo, man, c'mere. I got whatchu want. I got Likes, I got Friends, I got them Upvotes, I got that wild Retweet shit. Whatchu lookin' for? I'ma take your virtual ass to popularity heaven.

Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Sun, 09/10/2017 - 13:27 Permalink

2 billion is total BS! Im pretty sure that the 2 billion claim includes anyone who has any Facebook app on their device, which by the way I have removed several times and it keeps reappearing on my phone! Im not even on facebook and never have been and never will be!Fuck you Facebook Josef Mengele evil pigs and fucking social engineering psychologist and sociologist whores!YOU ARE THE PROBLEM,  NOT THE SOLUTION!