Facebook Targets Fake ‘Likes’

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Facebook has stepped up its measures against fake ‘Likes’, as it faces investor pressure to prove its worth to advertisers

Facebook on Friday said it has stepped up measures aimed at removing fake ‘Likes‘ from the social network, as the company faces mounting pressure from investors to prove its worth as an advertising platform.

The move came as Facebook’s shares hit new lows, with analysts further cutting their expectations for the company’s share performance. On Friday, Facebook’s share price hit a new low of $18.03 (£11.33) before ending at $18.08, down 5.28 percent for the day. The company’s shares are currently worth less than half the $38 at which they made their stock market debut in May.

Industry observers noted that Facebook announced its latest move against fake ‘Likes’ on the Friday before the US’ Labour Day weekend, a time when business news is guaranteed to attract little interest.

Advertising potential

The social network’s growth prospects largely come down to its potential as an advertising medium, something that is undermined by the widespread presence of fake profiles used primarily to “Like” Facebook Pages created to advertise products.

Facebook has downplayed the presence of fake ‘Likes’. In July, after an investigation by the BBC found that it was possible to attract more than 1,600 ‘Likes’ within 24 hours to a page offering no products and no content, Facebook responded that it had “not seen evidence of a significant problem”.

On Friday the company changed its message, admitting to the widespread presence of “Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes”.

“Third-party vendors often attempt to use malware or other forms of deception to generate fraudulent Likes, which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole,” Facebook said.

Facebook will “remove Likes on Pages that may have been gained by means that violate our Facebook Terms”. It said on average less than one percent of the Likes on a given Page would be removed. The measures will give Pages owners “a more accurate measurement of fan count and demographics”, according to Facebook.

‘Real identity’

“To be clear, we do not and have never permitted the purchase or sale of Facebook Likes as we only want people connecting to the Pages and brands with whom they have chosen to connect,” Facebook stated.

The company advised Page owners to ensure that any marketing services they paid for were using “only legitimate practices”.

“Facebook was built on the principle of real identity and we want this same authenticity to extend to Pages,” the company stated.

Financial analysts have noted that Facebook’s advertising model is relatively “immature” compared to that of Google, but have said this could work to the company’s advantage.

“To gain full industry confidence, it will be critical that Facebook spends a lot of time and resources developing its advertising model further,” said Phil Harpur, senior research manager for ICT at Frost & Sullivan Australia, at the time of the flotation.

“On the flip-side, Facebook’s immature online advertising model, combined with their massive global reach, gives them huge potential to grow for very high revenue growth over the longer term and compete head on with Google in terms of advertising revenues,” Harpur added. “Google on the other hand while still displaying solid growth in online advertising revenues, no longer has the potential for such rapid growth due to its more mature advertising platform.”

TechWeekEurope recently found that Twitter had a serious problem with fake followers, and that the firm was doing little to stop it.

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