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Berginski: ‘Like’ farmers prey on Facebook users

By Staff | Jan 24, 2014

If you have ever been on Facebook or know someone who uses Facebook, odds are he, she or even you have seen something like this: a photo of a little girl who’s been through nothing short of pure hell. This little girl has apparently been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and some good souls should be hitting that “like” button to make this little girl still feel great inside-because short of funneling money for treatment it is a nice thing to do. Or a photo of a dog or cat who needs a certain amount of “likes” or else it will be euthanized. (Or even an optical illusion that is only supposed to work if you “like” and comment on it. But for the purposes of this column I will stick with the above examples, and you’ll know why in a minute.)

Facebook users, including yours truly, have probably seen things like this in what’s known as their “news feeds”. Their friends have liked this and spread it on their news feeds, who have in turn spread it on their friends’ feeds with the frequency and speed of H1N1.

Since day one, these weekly columns have been all about persuading, informing or (attempting to) entertaining you in regards to certain things. This week, you can now not feel like a horrible human being for ignoring things on Facebook. (If you use it, that is. If you don’t, you have now read something that will, in a way, make you feel like you made a wise choice staying off it.)

Nowadays it isn’t just sex and violence that sells or gets one to do a chosen action (buy a product, “like” a page/post), but also guilt and the tugging of your heartstrings. And those who engage in the act of what’s called “like farming” know just that.

Those pictures that were described above don’t exist as described. Odds are, scammers and anyone engaged in “like farming” stole those pictures from a website, renamed them and made circumstances seem worse than they actually are. (To use again the example of the dog that was supposed to be euthanized, odds are someone probably put a picture of him on the web, and he is owned by a loving, caring family.) Your friends see it, interact with it, and it continues to blow up news feeds.

Liking those posts may seem harmless, but in reality it only contributes to a growing problem.

When a page starts to get enough fans, the owner of the page can start putting ads on that page, which you and others who “liked” it will see. Or the page owner could use the page to spread malware, particularly viruses used for identity theft. In other words, you just gave that guy (or girl or he-she) money without even knowing it.

Pages can also be sold, “likes” and all. On a website called Warriorforum.com, in the past people could buy Facebook pages for thousands of dollars. This is supposedly against Facebook terms and conditions, but with new “like farming” schemes popping up often, it’s hard to track, let alone stop.

The next time you or someone you know sees something demanding “likes”, be wary, for it may just be trying to scam you, him or her.

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