COM0011 Blog Post #5 Doping in Social Media

The Winter Olympic 2014 is fast approaching. One of the important tasks for the International Olympic Committee is the fight against doping to prevent any athletes from taking unfair advantage with drugs over other athletes and to protect the athletes’ health. Doping is not only a problem in sports world. It exists in social media too, in a digital way.

The recent news about companies and individuals (even politicians) buying “likes”, “followers” and votes, etc. to boost their popularity drew my attention. It opened up my skeptical eyes to see the digital world. As I read more articles about buying votes in social media, I found that this problem of “click farm” started a couple of years ago. A click farm sells clicks for fans, likes, followers, views and more in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. People buy clicks to boost their social media numbers, which can lead to profits and popularity. The click prices vary for different social platforms and have come down a lot because the click farms operate in low-wage countries such as Bangladash or tanker ships stationed off shore, and the cost of internet connectivity is low.

Although companies like Microsoft, Symantec, Google and Facebook have tried to deal with this problem by tracking down the fake profiles and close them down, the click farms such as Click Monkeys , Fiverr , WeSellLikes and Unique IT World are still going on with their business. They offer cheap, legitimate service to the click buyers, but everyone knows it is unethical. The artificially created popularity is supposed to help sales, boost campaign performance or raise site rankings, but it is not the real thing. Just like the athletes who win with the aid of banned drugs are not genuine winners and they are also harming their bodies, the click buyers are not really that popular in those social networks, and it is equivalent to false advertising. How will their customers or supporters react when they find out the truth?

It also leads to my skepticism on the votes for the participants in TV reality shows. Some performers don’t deserve to go on for weeks in the show, but with the support of their fans, they stay on. Now I wonder whether those are all their real fans?

Two weeks ago I finished lesson 4 “Measuring and Monitoring” of this course . Will click farms put us a step backward in evaluating the online influence of companies and individuals? They beat the purpose of online presence to listen to and interact with the target audience–those click farms can be paid to write favourable replies and comments on the click buyers social networks!

Reference reading:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/inside-click-farms-selling-likes-on-social-media-spells-big-business-1.1618538
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/02/click-farms-appearance-online-popularity
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/06/click-farms-are-the-new-sweatshops/
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-06/its-click-farm-world-1-million-followers-cost-600-and-state-department-buys-2-millio

One thought on “COM0011 Blog Post #5 Doping in Social Media

  1. This is so true Annie. How will there ever be faithful representation with these practices? It’s a sad state of affairs when a whole industry grows out of fictitious data. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise though, considering the amount of cheating that has gone on for years in the business of gaming. There are cheat codes for pretty much every genre of video game from Nintendo to XBox and Blizzard all the way back to the days of Atari. Online culture has its share of people always looking for shortcuts, just as there is in the offline world 😦

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