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Have You Heard of Click-Farms?

Clicks, Views, and Likes for the $$

Typical click-farm workstation setup, where a worker operates several fake social media accounts on several smartphone devices.

You might have heard by now that you can purchase likes and followers for your Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. What you probably haven’t heard is that there are two ways of doing so: legally or illegally.

You can, for example, visit a website such as boostlikes.com and place an order for some likes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even YouTube. The site offers several attractive “like packages” that you can buy including, for example, a thousand likes for 70$!

Other websites such as BuyPlusFollowers.com sells 250 Google+ shares for $12.95, InstagramEngine.com sells 1,000 Instagram followers for $12, and AuthenticHits.com sells 1,000 SoundCloud plays for just $9.

Websites like these use click-farms in developing countries such as India, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh. So what’s a click-farm?

A click-farm is a form of click fraud, where large groups of low-paid workers are hired to click on paid advertising links, Like, share, comment, or leave satisfying reviews for any social media page or account. The workers click the links, surf targeted websites periodically, and possibly sign up for newsletters before clicking another link.

Click-farms pay workers 1$ on average for clicking the like button a thousand times in what now has become a booming underground industry. You might think it’s slavery to pay someone as little as 1$ for clicking a button a thousand times but in fact, a dollar is a good deal for the people of these developing countries. Bangladesh, for example, naturally have low annual income. “It was $1,316 in the last fiscal year”, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said at a meeting of the National Economic Council in April 2016.

So, if a click-farm worker clicked the like button 3,600 times a day, he’d be setting himself up to meet a good annual income by the end of the year and fulfilling that good old “Afghani dream”.

These click-farms can do anything from liking, following, to sharing and anything else that can be done through clicks. The workers would be busy registering and verifying thousands of accounts on all favorite social media websites and then keeping them idle until they become useful. They keep doing so until they receive an order from a client such as webmasters, which pays the click-farm a sum of money to target specific social media accounts with clicks.

When an order is made, these workers relentlessly start liking targeted social media accounts using the generous number of fake accounts they were busy creating before the order. When they achieve the targeted number of likes, the order would be considered complete, and the workers get paid — this sums up the business model.

If you think that Facebook condemns such practice and forbids buying likes, well, you’ll be surprised to know that they’re actually in the business of selling them. Likes became addictive and some people are willing to pay loads of money to get their hands on some. Facebook knows this because, well, it’s them who first popularized the damn thing.

It would be an understatement to say that Facebook is just making money by selling followers and likes because they’re continually implementing tactics to eliminate the competition and monopolize the like-industry. Facebook doesn’t want to share a dollar with those click-farms and is continuously developing algorithms to shut them down in order for you to pay Facebook directly for followers and likes through what they call “advertisement” — this represents the legal way of buying followers or likes.

According to Facebook’s 2014 financial report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, an estimated 83 million fake accounts were deleted, accounting for approximately 11.2% of the 1.3 billion total accounts on Facebook, which lead to noticeable drops of followers for celebrities. Unlike YouTube wiping views, Facebook’s deletions didn’t remove fake likes. Billions of YouTube video counterfeit views were deleted after being exposed by auditors. In December 2014, Instagram carried out a purge deemed the “Instagram Rapture” wherein many accounts were affected — including Instagram’s official account, which lost 18,880,211 followers.

Click-farms fought back by adopting different tactics to obfuscate their traffic and avoid detection by automatic systems. In addition to liking the pages that they are paid to like, they also click through ads and like related pages they aren’t paid to like or follow — this behavior of flurry “organic” likes makes it much harder to pick out.

This lead to fake profiles clicking viciously on Facebook advertisements, following and liking the advertised pages by Facebook itself and consequently infesting legitimate Facebook users with herds of fake followers, who’ll never deliver any fruitful engagement. Ultimately, what you get is people paying Facebook directly to promote their pages but instead receiving the same fake followers created by the click-farms, which can be purchased illegally for less.

While developing countries are busy doing it the “old way” by hiring large numbers of low-wage workers to do all the dirty work, countries such as Russia and China are playing the game on a much-advanced level. In China, one click-farm was discovered with reportedly 10,000 smartphone devices operated by bots (programs that talk and behave like humans online) relentlessly boosting social media engagement for the click-farm’s paying customers.

Inside Of A Chinese Click Farm (10,000+ phones)

Earlier this year, scientists at USC and Indiana University discovered that as many as 15% of Twitter accounts could be fake. Twitter currently has 319 million monthly active users, which could mean there are as many as 48 million bot accounts.

Remarkably, it’s not difficult at all for anyone to start a click-farm business. All you need to do is to buy several cheap secondhand smartphones and download some apps, and you’ll be in business. If you’re dedicated to the job, you could earn in the range between 1,000$ and 2,000$ per month. Your customers would be companies who intend to promote their goods and services or individual pretentious social media users, that are mesmerized by likes and clicks.

Social media engagement have, in fact, become a desirable commodity. It’s the birth-child of a new technology that infiltrated society and is actively changing it in an orderly fashion through new tools and features. No one could’ve predicted that when you introduce social media in society, people will start getting addicted to clicks and likes leading to an illegal underground black market for trafficking virtual thumbs.

As the case with any commodity when supply becomes overwhelming, a bubble is created, and the value of the product drops exponentially until the bubble bursts and the commodity become useless and undesirable.

User engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) is the engine of all social media. As billions of fake likes and other engagements are pumped artificiality in the social media community, a bubble is being created and inflated dangerously until inevitably the bubble will burst, and engagement becomes useless and of zero-value.

When that day comes, user confidence will erode away, people will stop contributing online, and all these tech giants will collapse.