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back to article Fake sandwich shop's big fake Likes leave Facebook looking flaky

A fake business set up on Facebook by the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones received thousands of fake endorsements – and Facebook doesn't seem to care. Rory concludes, not unreasonably, that firms may be "wasting large sums of money on adverts to gain 'Likes' from Facebook members who have no real interest in their products". He also …

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Anonymous Coward

1000 Likes for $5

I can buy 1000 Likes from legit accounts for just $5. So yeah, Likes don't really mean anything.

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Anonymous Coward

I do not think it means what you think it means.

That's not what "legit" means to me, anyway.

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Re: 1000 Likes for $5

Likes are like any review - take it with a pinch of salt.

If I had a company, I certainly would not have a "like" button or page for it - I find it incredibly irritating that everything you install or try wants you to "like" them.

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"I certainly would not have a "like" button or page for it"

Didn't someone point out last week that 'like' really means 'yes please, feel free to spam me'?

What company could resist that sort of opt-in trick? (A company I'd admire admittedly;)

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Advertisers are

Getting wise to this and unless Facebook address this problem they will leave in droves.

No one likes being ripped off.

Can Facebook afford to ignore it, especially as it's income comes from advertising.

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WTF?

A significant number – over 50 million – of Facebook accounts may be fakes

50,000,000 ? That's a big number. Until we put it into context. Facebook claims to have over 500,000,000 accounts. So the number of fake accounts is about 10% of the total number of accounts.

Sure, in our ivory towers we would like that to be 0%. But 10% isn't too bad, IMHO.

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'So the number of fake accounts is about 10% of the total number of accounts'

Facebook may claim 500,000,000 accounts but how many of those are actually active, unique users?

and how active are those 50 million bots compared to a real user?

If you start looking at it in that context then you are talking about a hell of a lot more than 10% of traffic..

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FAIL

10%

I have a bad feeling that that 10% number is WAY too LOW of an estimate.

Dave

P.S. Speaking as someone who knows some stuffed animals with their own Facebook profiles, mainly set up so their owner (Not me!) can have multiple gaming accounts. ;-)

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FAIL

Just about everyone I know has a fake Facebook account

In addition to their real one. Me, I only have 3 fake Facebook accounts, and 0 real ones.

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FAIL

Only 10%?? In my household with two adults and one 17 year old teenager, there are a total of 15 different Facebook accounts that are use to play the games on the site. Of those 15 accounts, only two of them represent actual people and not just fake names with a bit of info tossed in to keep FB happy. I am aware of a number of other "real" accounts that also have a handful of fake accounts just for the games.

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"Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

No. Next question?

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Holmes

Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

What does facebook even do, really? It's the web equivalent of skirting boards as far as I am concerned. If they didnt exist we'd probably moan occasionally that our walls are a little scuffed but no one would be loosing any sleep over it plus you'd save on gloss paint! Same with facebook but instead of scuffed walls and paint its talking shit to people and clicking like out of politeness when really you dont give a damn that we'll miss!

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Facepalm

Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

You know, what really, TRULY astounds me is this ever growing assumption that Facebook is a foundational pillar of the internet rather than the latest webtrend writ large.

Anyone remember the days of Yahoo or AOL? Myspace?

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Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

"What does facebook even do, really?"

They provide free websites for people and small companies. That's it. But these days, that's quite a lot.

It won't last for any number of reasons but it is actually providing a real service for a lot of people who want to share pictures and stuff online but don't want to bother with real hosting.

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Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

Nope. Not when they flog ads from Minnesota con men:

FREE Video Reveals "Weird" Trick To

Slash Your Power Bill By 75% (Or More)

& Beat The Electricity Monopoly For Good!

Took me a single log in to Facebook to locate this criminal's ad. The video uses all the classic con man stuff. It's a one-stop-shopping education on every confidence trickster's patter. "But wait, there's more!" and so on.

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Let me clear it up for you.

Facebook isn't worth several hundred million.

You will not stop spam.

People, even real people, liking something on Facebook (or any other site) means nothing for your sales, whatsoever, in any way.

And "likes" mean even less if you can't "dislike" on the same site too (7,000,000 likes may sound wonderful but how many "dislikes" would they get and what proportion of each?).

Most worrying in the article is the assumption that a) things like this don't happen elsewhere, b) things like this aren't already happening and have been happening since there was a system worth gaming and c) things like this can be stopped. It just suggests a very naive author, hoping to provoke some reaction.

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Linux

Re: Let me clear it up for you.

I agree with the lack of dislike buttons, it really is weird, until you realise that if there were a dislike button the crap that people post would be quickly disliked by a great number of people and then the poster would stop posting on facebook and may even go as far as to harm themselves. Whilst it would be absolutely fantastic to put an end to some of the mindless dribble out there on the interent; you can see how a depleting user base would be bad for the investors even if driving out poor content producers actually improves the quality of the content on facebook.

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Re: Let me clear it up for you.

Sorry, but whether or not people can or cannot take criticism isn't Facebook's responsibility. Encouraging a culture in which you can only be liked is a nonesense - the world isn't like that. Just look at the downthumbs I've had here at the Reg and I still come back for more because I can take it, and more importantly learn something about my own attitudes and how well they align with those of others.

In other words, being told you're spouting crap is something that really needs to happen when you do it.

Youtube have a downthumb option, although I really think it ought to be policed a little better. It's surely not too hard to spot spam/trolling algorythmically and suspend/restrict accounts. I do think if you downthumb something, you really ought to be asked to provide a reason (however brief). If it's upset you, you ought to be glad to tell everyone why after all, in particular the person who posted the offensive material.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the crap that people post would be quickly disliked by a great number of people

You sure? YouTube has "dislike" buttons, plenty of trolls, and a pile of crap content but little heavily-disliked content, at least in the areas that I watch.

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Dislikes

I think that it should be "loathe" (for the alliteration)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Let me clear it up for you.

@meik. We can put your theory to an immediate test. I've downvoted your post. If enough others do the same, we can find out if you'll 'self harm'

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Re: Let me clear it up for you.

"whether or not people can or cannot take criticism isn't Facebook's responsibility"

No it's not, but it might affect their bottom line, and that they *do* care about.

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Anonymous Coward

...and so the cycle goes on. MySpace to Facebook to.... another network that is fresh and doesn't have all the annoying corporate BS on it.

It won't be long.

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Anonymous Coward

Very interesting article and experiment.

and it does get straight ot the heart of the matter: How on earth is Facebook going to deliver value to it's shareholders ?

One depressing phenomenon I've seen over the years, is the amount of noise you need to trawl through, when looking for a tiniest bit of signal in web searches.

I suspect "web 3.0" will see the emergence of quality sites, which require payment, but deliver quality content. Hell, if £10 a year could exclude all advertising results, I'd sign up with Google. Because when I search for "UPS USB not working linux" I really don't need to see loads of adverts for UPSs.

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FAIL

Re: Very interesting article and experiment.

Or come to think of it the dozen links that lead to different sites all slurping the same forum posts and republishing them, so you just end up reading the same questions and (lack of relevant) answers!

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Anonymous Coward

"insisting users must declare their real-life identities"

Well my cat did have problems with the "select gender" question but it hasn't stopped her (she gets upset if you refer to her as "it") from posting.

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50 million

Does anyone believe that? Only 50 million?

Next they'll be saying most twitter accounts can be mapped directly to actual human beings.

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Holmes

Market Value

The market value of something is exactly what somebody is prepared to pay for it. In the case of stripey shirted *ankers that gamble with other people's money, that's $100billion. I suspect most Facebook users wouldn't pay at all for a service that gets less comprehensible as time goes on and advertisers won't pay much more than that. There seems to be a discrepency somewhere...

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Anonymous Coward

Blast from the past

Oh wow, The Times. I'd forgotten about them. They've pretty much disappeared from the discussion, lately, on account of nobody being able to access their stuff anymore.

I wonder how that's working out for them.

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Meh

Re: Blast from the past

I vaguely recall it *was* working out for them. Clearly there were enough people who valued the content to pay for it. The interesting thing is whether they can continue in a viable way - if they can, then (as El Reg highlighted at the time) other content providers may change their business model.

I predicted here before, and I stand by it: If Facebook ludicrous market valuation is to remain anywhere near what it is, it will have to find a way to directly monetarise it's users. "Facebook Premium" springs to mind. However, for most users "premium" would mean opting out of being bombarded with ads and spam. Which is exactly what Facebook advertisers *don't* want.

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LIKE

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Facebook valuation

The valuation of facebook is somewhat extreme.

The $1billion they paid for Instagram on the other hand, is just completely batsh*t crazy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Facebook valuation

Facebook paid $1billion for Instagram to make sure that Facebook stayed at $100 billion.

Facebook know full well that the $100 billion isn't and wouldn't be backed by cash - its a valuation extrapolated from a tiny percentage of the company that is backed by money.

They know full well that soon something new will come along (it might have been instagram) and then Facebook will go the way of Myspace. They want to keep the value up, so they can quietly sell off as much stock as possible before the bubble bursts.

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Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified

no.

neither can myspaces or digg or instagrams or boo.com or any trendy intenet business initial valuations be justified.

not exactly rocket science

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Anonymous Coward

50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

Because we need fake Facebook accounts for legitimate purposes. Lots of them. When working on Web apps that use the Facebook API, how else are you going to test them?

What's more, because of Facebook's silly, unrealistic and unworkable 'real names' policy, I can't name my accounts 'Squrdleblorp Ltd. Test Account 1' and the like, because they spot and close them. Instead I have to give them realistic names and profiles which Facebook can't catch. (Names of cars combined with Indian surnames I find beat the filters quite well.)

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Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

Well, I've found at least a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

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Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

Well, I've found at least a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

You say that but facebook is very popular on Betelgeuse and it's a popular name there..

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Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

I'm guessing that there really is a woman called Mercedes Patel. Now, people will suspect her.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

That's clearly a made up name. Try with some more cromulent like Zaphod Beeblebrox.

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Pint

Re: a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

Completely O-T, but it is a Friday:

http://www.googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=ford+prefect&word2=ford+defect

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Trollface

Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

Found you - Moahmmed Chrysler

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Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

Kenny Everett would have been proud: Cupid Stunt has at least 20 entries (at least one of which is a bit more creative with some umlauts).

Hugh Jarss likewise. A few B'Stard entries are for the TV character, the rest are presumably fake. There was one C Leigh Farquhar but she may actually be genuine. A score of Gordon Zolas, a dozen I P Knightlys, and on and on. Half a dozen Nora Titsoff. And those are just the English variety - I'm sure there are other language variants. (Mustafa Fag might not be one of them).

My guess? Much, much more than 10% are either fake or duplicates of existing accounts. The figure might even approach 80%...

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Anonymous Coward

What's wrong with being called Ford Prefect?

Never did me any harm.

:42:

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Finally, Rory has said something vaguely meaningful for once, makes a change.

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Anonymous Coward

Rory Cellan-Useless

That is all.

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Real people my derriére

Cats, dogs, bears - the're all on Facebook.

More entaining than humans too...

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FAIL

I'm not a fan of Facebook, but I have some sympathy for them over RKJ's "experiment".

Basically, he sets up a page for a company that doesn't exist and doesn't have a product and "targets" a few quids' worth of advertising at countries which are not, as he later admits, the most lucrative potential markets, but are ones that someone else had told him generate a large number of false responses. Unsurprisingly he gets a large number of false responses.

As a result of this experiment, we know nothing we didn't know before. In particular, we don't know whether Facebook is right to claim that fake accounts aren't a problem for a company with a real product, that is prepared to employ someone who understands how to do social media marketing. It is entirely possible that false likes could be useful to someone who knew what they were doing.

The BBC, being an on-line news site, clearly know that "Facebook is rubbish" articles generate a lot of comment and traffic. Maybe they should try going behind a paywall.

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't it actually more that advertising on FB is in fact not worth it - he spent a small amount of money and got a lot of fake likes from it. So imagine you are General Motors with say $10Million to spend on advertising... would you spend it on FB ads or use it somewhere else?

Advertising revenue is one of FB's biggest income sources ..... if advertising on FB turns out to be worthless then where has their business model gone?

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Holmes

fake bagels

The Beeb have it 100% right with this.

FB even gives the game away - when you target ads, they have one option 'just show this to fools who'll click like on absolutely everything'. Or words to that effect.

It's just a fad. Companies feel the need to have a 'like' button because everyone else does, and then you need to have a respectable number of likes (few hundred, maybe 1000). There is no need to buy fake bot likes... FB makes this simple from their own settings. It costs about 2c per like with such targeting, so 100 bucks will buy you around 5000 likes. But does it help your business sell stuff? Of course not.

FB is doomed because their whole business model is based on this scam, and once everyone has rumbled it, their goose is cooked.

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Anonymous Coward

$100B? Stock market says $66B

Why keep repeating the $100B figure ... at current stock price of $30.84 the market cap is on $66B.

It will be interesting to see what happens in December when all the people holding the stock hoping that it will go back up to what they paid for it decide that its not going to happen and they might as well sell and take the loss as a tax deduction.

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