Be it the celebrities, politicians, businesses or government departments, they are willing to stretch their limits to become one of the most talked about things on the social media circuit. To make this arduous task of earning millions of friends, followers and likes easy, a full-fledge industry is on its rise to facilitate these numbers by enabling them to buy it. Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, two Italian security researchers have unearthed the giant money making industry behind it. This industry which allows you to have fake endorsers is estimated to be worth a whopping $360 million as of last year, which some experts suggest it could be much more.
Size does matter in the realm of social media, something which augments this industry. “Having a lot of Twitter followers or Facebook followers, I think there’s a sense that you look very influential,” said Eric Steuer, community director of Wired magazine as quoted in Aljazeera. “It looks like you’re part of the conversation, that a lot of people are looking to you for opinions and information.” Not just that, it is soon becoming a parameter for more and more employers to gauge whether someone would make a good employee.
As per Stroppa and Micheli investigation, such fake followers are sold in packages. So if you wanted 1,000 new electronic “friends,” you could pay anywhere from $1 to $5. The more followers you wanted, the more you’d pay.
Click farms, as the places which aid in inflating these social media popularity parameters are called also pose an interesting picture. Dhaka, Bangladesh, a South Asian city is an international hub for click farms.
A thumbs-down on moral compass
The practice has however raised ethical questions and companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Youtube are constantly on their toes to combat such bogus ‘publicity’Facebook figures. YouTube wiped out billions of music video views last December after auditors found some videos apparently had inflated numbers of views. Its parent-company, Google, is also constantly battling people who generate fake clicks on their ads. Similarly, Facebook also does frequent elimination as their most recent quarterly report estimated that as many as 14.1 million of its 1.18 billion active users are fraudulent accounts.