By Scott Kleinberg
August 8, 2013
Back in January, I wrote about what I call the Facebook "sharing trap" where you are persuaded to like a seemingly harmless photo that is part of a scam. It was one of my most shared columns, probably because so many people were surprised there's evil lurking behind a cute puppy. If anything, the sharing trap, which is really called like-farming, has become more dangerous.
If you're scratching your head, let me set the scene.
We've all seen photos with an accompanying caption along the lines of "type 3 in the comments, wait 3 seconds and watch the magic." How many of you have typed 3 only to see no magic? You should just be honest, because I've seen hundreds of thousands of people do it. Don't feel bad, you didn't know. But it's my goal today to make sure you never do it again.
What's the big deal? Like-farming is a scam, and when you fall for the scam you spread the fake magic to newsfeeds everywhere, including your friends.
Let's break it down.
When you like a page guilty of like-farming, the posts show up in your newsfeed. The goal of the page is to get as many likes as possible, because more likes equals more exposure. When you interact—simply clicking like on a photo of a puppy or kitten—your activity shows up in your friends' feeds. And then they spread it to their friends. At this point, the page is gaining traction in the Facebook algorithm and becoming more popular and visible. And with Facebook's announcement this week that it is going to resurface older posts depending on how many likes and comments it has, like-farming is even more in the spotlight.
Sadly, the photos and quotes and things that tug at our heartstrings the most are the worst offenders. Children with Down Syndrome, wounded soldiers back after long stints in Iraq, puppies about to be put down that need likes to save them—a lot of this is fake and a form of like-farming.
The big question is why? And there's a reason. Money. Have you noticed that once you see these pages you don't usually see them again? That's because they are sold, stripped and get a new name—but they already have all of these likes in place. Facebook doesn't allow this, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Sadly, you are helping.
Plus, as these pages gain more fans, they place ads on the page. When the pages show up in your newsfeed and the feeds of your friends, they see the ads too. But all that aside, remember that each time you click you give someone a way into your Facebook experience and that's the last thing you want to do.
It's similar to the old "you break it, you buy it" in that once you share, it's shared. But you can always unlike a page and alert your friends if you become aware of a scam.
So as hard as it is, resist the puppy. Or at least do a little bit of research before clicking like. Hopefully this column helps you realize the dangers lurking behind the scenes.
This topic was suggested by @MusicAdamT. Thank you for your suggestion.
What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.
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