What’s that old saying about digging a hole? After much online hilarity, Fine Gael claimed earlier today they were spammed by large numbers of inauthentic Facebook users last night.
What happened? The Wicklow based TD Simon Harris logged on for a post-Budget discussion but was greeted with a total lack of interest. Then thousands of users, predominantly overseas, began to like the post immediately. Online commentators were quick to point to the use of click farms, where dosh is handed over for instant likes.
You can usually track it by determining where the likes are coming from. As such its the futility of fools. This isn’t the first such Facebook gaffe over likes. Back in early January, a local election candidate in Ballymun called Sean Tyrrell saw a similar over night jump of 2000 likes, the majority of them located in Istanbul. He put it down to “a politically orchestrated campaign” when talking to the local press.
Not to be outshone, in the same month The Sunday Times carried a front pager accounting for how the Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) gained over 3000 Twitter followers over night . Jamie Fullham, an online digital blogger took both the CAI and Tyrell to town for their noobishness.
What’s a click farm? In August 2013, film-maker Chris Atkins traveled to Bangladesh for Channel 4’s Dispatches show in search of poorly paid workers manipulating social media at the command of western brands with fast cash. Atkins tracked a team logging in and out of Facebook accounts and liking a page dedicated to courgettes through out the night.
In a preview of the show, The Guardian wrote:
“Click farms have become a growing challenge for companies which rely on social media measurements – meant to indicate approval by real users – to estimate the popularity of their products.
For the workers, though, it is miserable work, sitting at screens in dingy rooms facing a blank wall, with windows covered by bars, and sometimes working through the night. For that, they could have to generate 1,000 likes or follow 1,000 people on Twitter to earn a single US dollar.
Sam DeSilva, a lawyer specializing in IT and outsourcing law at Manches LLP in Oxford, says of the fake clicks: “Potentially, a number of laws are being breached – the consumer protection and unfair trading regulations. Effectively it’s misleading the individual consumers.”
What’s our advice to the Fine Gael Digital Media team? Well, given that Richard Bruton is doing the rounds arse-licking US corporations over the imminent closure of the double Irish scam – it might be pertinent to nab a word with one of the Facebook higher ups and get them to verify just what happened here.
Til then, the rest of us can only make up our own mind.