The Norman Transcript

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January 6, 2014

Selling clicks is big business

(Continued)

SAN JOSE, Calif. —

And Facebook, whose most recent quarterly report estimated as many as 14.1 million of its 1.18 billion active users are fraudulent accounts, does frequent purges. That’s particularly important for a company that was built on the principle that users are real people.

Twitter’s Jim Prosser said there’s no upside. “In the end, their accounts are suspended, they’re out the money and they lose the followers,” he said.

LinkedIn spokesman Doug Madey said buying connections “dilutes the member experience,” violates their user agreement and can also prompt account closures.

Google and YouTube “take action against bad actors that seek to game our systems,” said spokeswoman Andrea Faville.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city of 7 million in South Asia, is an international hub for click farms.

The CEO of Dhaka-based social media promotion firm Unique IT World said he has paid workers to manually click on clients’ social media pages, making it harder for Facebook, Google and others to catch them. “Those accounts are not fake, they were genuine,” Shaiful Islam said.

A recent check on Facebook showed Dhaka was the most popular city for many, including soccer star Leo Messi, who has 51 million likes; Facebook’s own security page, which has 7.7 million likes; and Google’s Facebook page, which has 15.2 million likes.

In 2013, the State Department, which has more than 400,000 likes and was recently most popular in Cairo, said it would stop buying Facebook fans after its inspector general criticized the agency for spending $630,000 to boost the numbers.

In one case, its fan tally rose from about 10,000 to more than 2.5 million.

Sometimes there are plausible explanations for click increases.

For example, Burger King’s most popular city was, for a few weeks this year, Karachi, Pakistan, after the chain opened several restaurants there.

While the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorney generals have cracked down on fake endorsements or reviews, they have not weighed in on clicks. Meanwhile, hundreds of online businesses sell clicks and social media accounts from around the world.

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