If you look, you will find countless Facebook pages that have hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. But are these real? Some of the posts invite people to write a comment to see what happens. But predictably, nothing happens and this is all part of a large-scale Facebook scam.
These ‘stories’ then appear on newsfeeds and begin to resemble spam. The most common modus operandi for such Facebook scams is to attract people by getting their sympathy. This is easily achieved with images of sick children, wounded animals or details about some charitable organization.
How the scam functions
A page is created with a sympathetic message or an amusing anecdote to attract attention. The post is then shared publicly and people are called to perform actions like ‘like the page’, ‘comment’ or ‘share the page’. The next step posts the page on similar nefarious groups and spreads to hundreds of thousands of people via their newsfeed.
Once a page has garnered thousands of likes/comments, it is put up for sale. Someone who wishes to acquire the exposure of the page can purchase it and potentially misuse it. Certain details of the page can also be modified for malicious purposes. In this manner, anyone can get their hands on pages with high edge ranks to spam thousands of people, even though they may have the best anti-spam software. Such scams can spread propaganda, increase likes/comments, market something or even fool people into giving money or information.
Edge Rank and how it can be misused
The reason why parties resort to this trick is the money that can be gained via the ‘Facebook Like algorithm’. As a post gets increased comments/likes, its visibility rises. This page is then displayed to a greater number of people and this is beneficial to marketers in the short term and the long term.
This algorithm devised by Facebook functions on a platform known as Edge Rank. This is simply the score of a page based on various parameters and this score determines how useful the page actually is. In turn, this decides how many people will view the page. A higher edge rank allows a page to be displayed to more people in their newsfeed. Various factors that come into play here are affinity (closeness with the person), weight (embedded video or a link) and the time decay (relevance).
Unfortunately, there are many parties out there that misuse this platform. A high edge rank can be used to enhance brand exposure but it can also be used to bombard Facebook users with random messages and promotions that they are not interested in. Scammers also use this method to reach as many people as possible. All this has led to a process known as ‘Like buying’. This refers to the sale of Facebook fan pages and a simple Google search validates this.
Awareness about this technique and other Facebook scams is useful. ‘Like buying’ is quite a common occurrence and it can be misused in several ways. We recommend that you do not fall for manipulative messages or images that ask you for comments or likes.