Social media fraud is an estimated $200 million a year underground business.
It’s fuelled mainly by ‘clickfarms,’ which exist overseas in countries like Thailand and Bangladesh. There are two types of clickfarms, the most high-tech of which are all automated.
“A small room with racks and racks of smartphones, facing out so you can see the screen on every one and they’re all connected with cables powered into the bottom. Each of these phones is on all the time, they’re not touched. They have software on them that does the work of an individual. It’s programmed to head to a particular Instagram page and hit like on every single post,” Today Show tech commentator Trevor Long told The Quicky.
Listen to the full interview with Trevor below. Post continues after podcast.
“They could be programmed to look for a particular hashtag or certain keyword and hit like on those things. But also be programmed to log in and log out of hundreds and hundreds of fake accounts and hit like on a particular account,” said Mr Long.
Social media likes and follows are the modern day currency. Whether you’re on Instagram looking for fame, or a business or Instagram account trying to bring in sales – those likes matter. They make other people think a certain piece of content is good or important.
The same goes for followers. Essentially, it’s about social credibility or business reputation.
But in some cases, both those likes and follows are completely fake.
In 2017, a click farm in Thailand was raided – giving us a peek inside the clandestine industry. The three men arrested were using 475 mobile phones and 347,200 SIM cards to accumulate likes and views. They were earning up to $5,800 a month.
The masterminds behind an automated click farm are actually very clever, explains Trevor Long. “Programming a smartphone to do something automatically is actually quite a solid skill, so these are very skilled computer programmers.”
But there are also click farms that are run by people. “One person is likely accounting for thousands of potential pretend workers in that click farm. It’s not a great job, it’s not desirable,” he said.
These versions of the farms resemble sweatshops featuring hundreds of low paid workers sitting at a desk with tens of phones, following commands that a computer or piece of paper tells them to.
A farm that resembles this type of operation was uncovered in 2013 in Dhaka. It was paying its workers $15 for every 1000 likes.
A Times investigation in 2015 found a company in India offering $1 deals for every 1000 clicks.