What’s not to “Like”? Facebook’s fight on fakery is a page out of the Google handbook

Whats not to Like Facebook fight on fakery is a page out of the Google handbookGoogle “Facebook Likes” and you’ll be inundated with a flood of sites and services that promise to deliver that very thing. They don’t mince words in their promotion, flat out saying, you give us money we give you forced or faked human (or “human”) approval. Prices vary: FB Supplier sells 500 photo Likes for $29. Social Buzzer offers 1,000 Likes for $34.90. BuyFacebook-Likes.org (the .org qualifier being entirely necessary as to point out the uselessness of that label) price is 1,000 Website Facebook Likes for $39. It goes on and on and on and on and on.

buy facebook likesAnd none of it is surprising. Back in February, Facebook began making its marketing strategy crystal clear: Likes equal ads. The platform was going to convert the simple, innocent, non-committal act of hitting the Like button into meaning something about users and their relationships with brands.

Before we go much further, a short history of the Like button is deserved. Originally, it wasn’t even to be – it was going to be the Awesome button. The idea of the Awesome button was the result of a 2007 Facebook hackathon, which eventually evolved into “Like” and was officially introduced in 2009.

Eventually, Like replaced the “Become a Fan” feature altogether. And it’s become a popular one: While Facebook won’t reveal Like button statistics, when it was first made available, 50,000 Websites installed it within the first day, and that climbed to 100,000 sites within its opening month. By 2010, it’d had been implemented into some two million sites, and the feedback was unending praise: Some media sites reported 300 percent increases in referral traffic. So you can only imagine how much its presence has increased since.

In fact, you don’t have to imagine. It’s hard to even name a site you can’t Like. Let’s face it: The Like button is a fundamental piece of the Internet’s tapestry.

But it isn’t without controversy. Back in 2010, Facebook was hit with a lawsuit alleging that the Like button was using minors’ Internet activity for commercial gain. Since then, the company has faced an uphill battle trying to appease the courts while simultaneously being able to keep doing exactly what it’s doing. Concessions like trying to put in plainer language that a Like is essentially a vote for a brand has been about as much movement as the social site has made, though it’s also spent time with the FTC making a defense for the Like button and the customized experience it offers users.

Clearly, the Like is worth fighting for, and Facebook knows it. But not only does the network have to fight the Powers that Be, it also has to battle with the monster it created — spam tactics, like Likejacking and fraudulent Likes.  Last week the company announced it would start removing business page Likes that were put there by fake or hijacked accounts. Facebook tried to downplay what effect this could have, saying that a typical page will only lose one percent of its Likes, which doesn’t really reveal all that much since there isn’t such a thing as a “typical page” given the huge range in Likes. Some have millions, some have tens; pages with high Like numbers could feel the hit far more significantly.

There are two interesting things to take away from all this. The first is how businesses are reacting, which, to summarize, is not well. A handful are frustrated with their declining Like numbers, and rightfully so — Facebook made this metric important, then brands figured out how to work that system, and now the rules have changed. And it’s not something that just tiny, spammy companies have been doing: Buying Facebook Likes is pretty old hat at this point. Still, those who are protesting the announcement are suffering from their own hubris. You can only defend spamming so much. 

But what’s more interesting is that Facebook isn’t acting like Facebook — in fact, it’s acting like Google. Part of the reason buying Facebook Likes has been such a blatant, easy, care-free process is because Facebook’s network is hugely important, yet it isn’t confined by hard, set lines… like, say, a search algorithm is. Anyone who’s even minutely affected by Web traffic has felt the wrath of a Google search algorithm update; the always-iterating engine’s every tiny tweak greatly affects our business. And Google has always defended its algorithm as a science, a machine, a crucial cog in finding the most correct data. Facebook, on the other hand, has traditionally been about feelings, bias, opinions, and… well, likes, and for that matter, dislikes. But these days, it can’t be that amorphous, not when big advertising and marketing dollars are involved. If you had to say what Facebook’s “thing” was, that thing would legitimacy: It made a name for itself as the proprietar of the real online identity, and this is what has made it worth so much. The near-elimination of anonymity could have been seen as a slight, but the network made that a feature, a selling point — and it worked. So anything that challenges that, in the wake of things like stock prices and shareholders, has got to go. To do that, Facebook is taking a page out of Google’s book by rooting out the fakers.

Even some of the language Facebook is using sounds like what we hear about SEO tactics. Facebook says that businesses will actually benefit from this because Likes from fraudulent sources aren’t all that helpful: The site takes into account how active a business page’s followers are, so if you bought 10K Likes from spam profiles, then they arguably shouldn’t be successfully circulating your content. That idea sounds a lot like whenever Google issues a search algorithm update and reminds everyone that writing for humans instead of trying to learn its secret sauce is best practice.

We’ve taken yet another step away from SEO and into the next generation of Internet optimization. The search engine certainly isn’t going anywhere, but now it’s not the only one making rules the rest of us have to abide by.


Netflix’s latest price increase heralds the end of streaming’s golden age

Netflix’s recent price rise is just the latest in a string of signs that streaming’s golden age is nearly over. As more services enter the fray, content will be further partitioned, signaling the end of streaming’s good old days.

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Social Media

Here’s how to save someone’s Instagram Story to your phone

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Social Media

Invite your friends — Facebook Events can now be shared to Stories

Facebook is testing a way to make plans with friends to attend an event -- through Stories. By sharing an event in Facebook Stories, users can message other friends interested in the event to make plans to attend together.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Social Media

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. users don’t realize Facebook tracks their interests

Did you know Facebook tracks your interests, including political and multicultural affiliations? According to a recent Pew study, 74 percent of adult users in the U.S. have no idea Facebook keeps a running list of your interests.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Social Media

Twitter suffers privacy scare as bug reveals tweets of protected accounts

If you set your Twitter account to private and you have an Android device, you'd better check your settings now. Twitter says it's just fixed a four-year-old bug that flipped the privacy switch to make the account public.