So, what’s the deal with all the followers on Social Media? Should we want them? To what extent should we go to get them?
That is what I will explore in this blog post.
Doug Bock Clark in his article, The BOT Bubble: How Click Farms Have Inflated Social Media Currency, writes about how celebrities, companies, and everyday people boost their social media standing via “click farms” where customers buy social media influence (Clark, 2015).
In this article Clark interviews Richard Braggs, who set up a click farm company in 2013 with 17 employees working for him. This company makes 100–150 phone verified accounts (PVAs) on average per person on shift, working round the clock shifts so his farm would never go dark (Clark, 2015, p. 37).
Braggs is not the only one with a click farm company; these organizations can be found all over the world.
They exist in:
- the Philippines
- Eastern Europe
Despite vast locality most click farms are run by small teams that manage them independently (Clark, 2015, p.36).
It is also not difficult to purchase likes or followers for social media on the internet. Popular figures such as Paris Hilton and 50 Cent and companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mercedes Benz, and Louis Vuitton are known to use these services.
How Does it Work?
Clark clarifies on how this works: 1,000 Facebook likes for $29.99; 1,000 Twitter followers for $12; or any other type of fake social media credential, from YouTube views to Pinterest followers to SoundCloud plays (2015, p. 34).
What Do Social Media Companies Think About Click Farms?
We know that social media companies are familiar with click farms. For example Facebook even knows Braggs by name and has shut down his personal account. Facebook spokesmen issued a statement,
“Businesses use our platform to deliver real business results. Inauthentic interactions run counter to these goals, so we are constantly working to detect fraudulent activity and shut it down” (Clark, 2015, p. 39).
Twitter has also recognized that more than 8% of their accounts have been automated, but suggested that many could be used for legitimate reasons, like “tweeting the scores of sports games” (Clark, 2015, p. 40).
YouTube also periodically examines their popular videos and the number of views on them.
Even politicians such as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been accused of using these services in the past. An article in the New York Times reported that as much as 70% of Obama’s 19 million Twitter followers were fake, although his campaign denied buying followers (Clark, 2015, p. 39).
Clark then points to Ian Ayres, a specialist in contract law and a professor at Yale’s law and business school saying,
“To participate as a buyer or a seller in the traditional click-farming market seems a clear wrong” (2015, p. 38).
What’s the Problem?
The moral condemnation lies in the basic rules of Facebook’s terms of service restrictions.
It states that you will not provide any false information to your profile, or create an account for someone other than yourself.
This proves to be an overlooked restriction since in February 2014, 7% of its then 1.39 billion users were “fake” or “duplicate” accounts (Clark, 2015, p. 39).
The number has undoubtedly grown since then. Experts believe that without the aid of computer analysis, it’s almost impossible to finger any click farmer’s couture bot and hence prevent them.
One of the only limiting factors for Bragg’s business is the unpredictable supply of SIM cards. Although Clark, the freelance writer, points out that it seems unlikely that the army of elite coders and multi-billion dollar companies won’t eventually crush Braggs. The company floods his inboxes with “cease-and-desist orders” and know him by name.
Despite this, Braggs remains hopeful.
“Every system is made by humans, so there is always a way to beat it” (Clark, 2015, p. 41).
Clark, D. (2015). The Bot Bubble. How click farms have inflated social media currency. The New Republic.
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