back to article Fake sandwich shop's big fake Likes leave Facebook looking flaky

A fake business set up on Facebook by the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones received thousands of fake endorsements – and Facebook doesn't seem to care. Rory concludes, not unreasonably, that firms may be "wasting large sums of money on adverts to gain 'Likes' from Facebook members who have no real interest in their products". He also …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1000 Likes for $5

    I can buy 1000 Likes from legit accounts for just $5. So yeah, Likes don't really mean anything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I do not think it means what you think it means.

      That's not what "legit" means to me, anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1000 Likes for $5

      Likes are like any review - take it with a pinch of salt.

      If I had a company, I certainly would not have a "like" button or page for it - I find it incredibly irritating that everything you install or try wants you to "like" them.

      1. Paul Shirley

        "I certainly would not have a "like" button or page for it"

        Didn't someone point out last week that 'like' really means 'yes please, feel free to spam me'?

        What company could resist that sort of opt-in trick? (A company I'd admire admittedly;)

    3. LarsG
      Thumb Down

      Advertisers are

      Getting wise to this and unless Facebook address this problem they will leave in droves.

      No one likes being ripped off.

      Can Facebook afford to ignore it, especially as it's income comes from advertising.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    A significant number – over 50 million – of Facebook accounts may be fakes

    50,000,000 ? That's a big number. Until we put it into context. Facebook claims to have over 500,000,000 accounts. So the number of fake accounts is about 10% of the total number of accounts.

    Sure, in our ivory towers we would like that to be 0%. But 10% isn't too bad, IMHO.

    1. Alpha Tony

      'So the number of fake accounts is about 10% of the total number of accounts'

      Facebook may claim 500,000,000 accounts but how many of those are actually active, unique users?

      and how active are those 50 million bots compared to a real user?

      If you start looking at it in that context then you are talking about a hell of a lot more than 10% of traffic..

    2. Dave 32


      I have a bad feeling that that 10% number is WAY too LOW of an estimate.


      P.S. Speaking as someone who knows some stuffed animals with their own Facebook profiles, mainly set up so their owner (Not me!) can have multiple gaming accounts. ;-)

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Just about everyone I know has a fake Facebook account

      In addition to their real one. Me, I only have 3 fake Facebook accounts, and 0 real ones.

    4. Jack Burrows

      Only 10%?? In my household with two adults and one 17 year old teenager, there are a total of 15 different Facebook accounts that are use to play the games on the site. Of those 15 accounts, only two of them represent actual people and not just fake names with a bit of info tossed in to keep FB happy. I am aware of a number of other "real" accounts that also have a handful of fake accounts just for the games.

  3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

    No. Next question?

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

      What does facebook even do, really? It's the web equivalent of skirting boards as far as I am concerned. If they didnt exist we'd probably moan occasionally that our walls are a little scuffed but no one would be loosing any sleep over it plus you'd save on gloss paint! Same with facebook but instead of scuffed walls and paint its talking shit to people and clicking like out of politeness when really you dont give a damn that we'll miss!

      1. Vector

        Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

        You know, what really, TRULY astounds me is this ever growing assumption that Facebook is a foundational pillar of the internet rather than the latest webtrend writ large.

        Anyone remember the days of Yahoo or AOL? Myspace?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

        "What does facebook even do, really?"

        They provide free websites for people and small companies. That's it. But these days, that's quite a lot.

        It won't last for any number of reasons but it is actually providing a real service for a lot of people who want to share pictures and stuff online but don't want to bother with real hosting.

    2. Milo Tsukroff

      Re: "Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified."

      Nope. Not when they flog ads from Minnesota con men:

      FREE Video Reveals "Weird" Trick To

      Slash Your Power Bill By 75% (Or More)

      & Beat The Electricity Monopoly For Good!

      Took me a single log in to Facebook to locate this criminal's ad. The video uses all the classic con man stuff. It's a one-stop-shopping education on every confidence trickster's patter. "But wait, there's more!" and so on.

  4. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Let me clear it up for you.

    Facebook isn't worth several hundred million.

    You will not stop spam.

    People, even real people, liking something on Facebook (or any other site) means nothing for your sales, whatsoever, in any way.

    And "likes" mean even less if you can't "dislike" on the same site too (7,000,000 likes may sound wonderful but how many "dislikes" would they get and what proportion of each?).

    Most worrying in the article is the assumption that a) things like this don't happen elsewhere, b) things like this aren't already happening and have been happening since there was a system worth gaming and c) things like this can be stopped. It just suggests a very naive author, hoping to provoke some reaction.

    1. Miek

      Re: Let me clear it up for you.

      I agree with the lack of dislike buttons, it really is weird, until you realise that if there were a dislike button the crap that people post would be quickly disliked by a great number of people and then the poster would stop posting on facebook and may even go as far as to harm themselves. Whilst it would be absolutely fantastic to put an end to some of the mindless dribble out there on the interent; you can see how a depleting user base would be bad for the investors even if driving out poor content producers actually improves the quality of the content on facebook.

      1. Andy Fletcher

        Re: Let me clear it up for you.

        Sorry, but whether or not people can or cannot take criticism isn't Facebook's responsibility. Encouraging a culture in which you can only be liked is a nonesense - the world isn't like that. Just look at the downthumbs I've had here at the Reg and I still come back for more because I can take it, and more importantly learn something about my own attitudes and how well they align with those of others.

        In other words, being told you're spouting crap is something that really needs to happen when you do it.

        Youtube have a downthumb option, although I really think it ought to be policed a little better. It's surely not too hard to spot spam/trolling algorythmically and suspend/restrict accounts. I do think if you downthumb something, you really ought to be asked to provide a reason (however brief). If it's upset you, you ought to be glad to tell everyone why after all, in particular the person who posted the offensive material.

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Let me clear it up for you.

          "whether or not people can or cannot take criticism isn't Facebook's responsibility"

          No it's not, but it might affect their bottom line, and that they *do* care about.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the crap that people post would be quickly disliked by a great number of people

        You sure? YouTube has "dislike" buttons, plenty of trolls, and a pile of crap content but little heavily-disliked content, at least in the areas that I watch.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let me clear it up for you.

        @meik. We can put your theory to an immediate test. I've downvoted your post. If enough others do the same, we can find out if you'll 'self harm'

    2. tony2heads


      I think that it should be "loathe" (for the alliteration)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and so the cycle goes on. MySpace to Facebook to.... another network that is fresh and doesn't have all the annoying corporate BS on it.

    It won't be long.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very interesting article and experiment.

    and it does get straight ot the heart of the matter: How on earth is Facebook going to deliver value to it's shareholders ?

    One depressing phenomenon I've seen over the years, is the amount of noise you need to trawl through, when looking for a tiniest bit of signal in web searches.

    I suspect "web 3.0" will see the emergence of quality sites, which require payment, but deliver quality content. Hell, if £10 a year could exclude all advertising results, I'd sign up with Google. Because when I search for "UPS USB not working linux" I really don't need to see loads of adverts for UPSs.

    1. NogginTheNog

      Re: Very interesting article and experiment.

      Or come to think of it the dozen links that lead to different sites all slurping the same forum posts and republishing them, so you just end up reading the same questions and (lack of relevant) answers!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "insisting users must declare their real-life identities"

    Well my cat did have problems with the "select gender" question but it hasn't stopped her (she gets upset if you refer to her as "it") from posting.

  8. Tom_

    50 million

    Does anyone believe that? Only 50 million?

    Next they'll be saying most twitter accounts can be mapped directly to actual human beings.

  9. System 10 from Navarone

    Market Value

    The market value of something is exactly what somebody is prepared to pay for it. In the case of stripey shirted *ankers that gamble with other people's money, that's $100billion. I suspect most Facebook users wouldn't pay at all for a service that gets less comprehensible as time goes on and advertisers won't pay much more than that. There seems to be a discrepency somewhere...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blast from the past

    Oh wow, The Times. I'd forgotten about them. They've pretty much disappeared from the discussion, lately, on account of nobody being able to access their stuff anymore.

    I wonder how that's working out for them.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Blast from the past

      I vaguely recall it *was* working out for them. Clearly there were enough people who valued the content to pay for it. The interesting thing is whether they can continue in a viable way - if they can, then (as El Reg highlighted at the time) other content providers may change their business model.

      I predicted here before, and I stand by it: If Facebook ludicrous market valuation is to remain anywhere near what it is, it will have to find a way to directly monetarise it's users. "Facebook Premium" springs to mind. However, for most users "premium" would mean opting out of being bombarded with ads and spam. Which is exactly what Facebook advertisers *don't* want.

  11. Richard Scratcher
    Thumb Up


  12. lurker

    Facebook valuation

    The valuation of facebook is somewhat extreme.

    The $1billion they paid for Instagram on the other hand, is just completely batsh*t crazy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook valuation

      Facebook paid $1billion for Instagram to make sure that Facebook stayed at $100 billion.

      Facebook know full well that the $100 billion isn't and wouldn't be backed by cash - its a valuation extrapolated from a tiny percentage of the company that is backed by money.

      They know full well that soon something new will come along (it might have been instagram) and then Facebook will go the way of Myspace. They want to keep the value up, so they can quietly sell off as much stock as possible before the bubble bursts.

  13. Aldous

    Rory poses the question of whether Facebook's $100bn valuation can be justified


    neither can myspaces or digg or instagrams or or any trendy intenet business initial valuations be justified.

    not exactly rocket science

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

    Because we need fake Facebook accounts for legitimate purposes. Lots of them. When working on Web apps that use the Facebook API, how else are you going to test them?

    What's more, because of Facebook's silly, unrealistic and unworkable 'real names' policy, I can't name my accounts 'Squrdleblorp Ltd. Test Account 1' and the like, because they spot and close them. Instead I have to give them realistic names and profiles which Facebook can't catch. (Names of cars combined with Indian surnames I find beat the filters quite well.)

    1. DavCrav

      Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

      Well, I've found at least a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

      1. Alpha Tony

        Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

        Well, I've found at least a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

        You say that but facebook is very popular on Betelgeuse and it's a popular name there..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

        That's clearly a made up name. Try with some more cromulent like Zaphod Beeblebrox.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: a hundred fake accounts by typing "Ford Prefect" into the search box...

        Completely O-T, but it is a Friday:

    2. frank ly

      Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

      I'm guessing that there really is a woman called Mercedes Patel. Now, people will suspect her.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

      Found you - Moahmmed Chrysler

    4. Ancientbr IT

      Re: 50 million has to be a wild underestimate.

      Kenny Everett would have been proud: Cupid Stunt has at least 20 entries (at least one of which is a bit more creative with some umlauts).

      Hugh Jarss likewise. A few B'Stard entries are for the TV character, the rest are presumably fake. There was one C Leigh Farquhar but she may actually be genuine. A score of Gordon Zolas, a dozen I P Knightlys, and on and on. Half a dozen Nora Titsoff. And those are just the English variety - I'm sure there are other language variants. (Mustafa Fag might not be one of them).

      My guess? Much, much more than 10% are either fake or duplicates of existing accounts. The figure might even approach 80%...

  15. spiny norman

    I'm not a fan of Facebook, but I have some sympathy for them over RKJ's "experiment".

    Basically, he sets up a page for a company that doesn't exist and doesn't have a product and "targets" a few quids' worth of advertising at countries which are not, as he later admits, the most lucrative potential markets, but are ones that someone else had told him generate a large number of false responses. Unsurprisingly he gets a large number of false responses.

    As a result of this experiment, we know nothing we didn't know before. In particular, we don't know whether Facebook is right to claim that fake accounts aren't a problem for a company with a real product, that is prepared to employ someone who understands how to do social media marketing. It is entirely possible that false likes could be useful to someone who knew what they were doing.

    The BBC, being an on-line news site, clearly know that "Facebook is rubbish" articles generate a lot of comment and traffic. Maybe they should try going behind a paywall.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't it actually more that advertising on FB is in fact not worth it - he spent a small amount of money and got a lot of fake likes from it. So imagine you are General Motors with say $10Million to spend on advertising... would you spend it on FB ads or use it somewhere else?

      Advertising revenue is one of FB's biggest income sources ..... if advertising on FB turns out to be worthless then where has their business model gone?

  16. Pete Spicer

    Finally, Rory has said something vaguely meaningful for once, makes a change.

  17. Simon Cresswell

    Real people my derriére

    Cats, dogs, bears - the're all on Facebook.

    More entaining than humans too...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with being called Ford Prefect?

    Never did me any harm.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rory Cellan-Useless

    That is all.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    fake bagels

    The Beeb have it 100% right with this.

    FB even gives the game away - when you target ads, they have one option 'just show this to fools who'll click like on absolutely everything'. Or words to that effect.

    It's just a fad. Companies feel the need to have a 'like' button because everyone else does, and then you need to have a respectable number of likes (few hundred, maybe 1000). There is no need to buy fake bot likes... FB makes this simple from their own settings. It costs about 2c per like with such targeting, so 100 bucks will buy you around 5000 likes. But does it help your business sell stuff? Of course not.

    FB is doomed because their whole business model is based on this scam, and once everyone has rumbled it, their goose is cooked.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $100B? Stock market says $66B

    Why keep repeating the $100B figure ... at current stock price of $30.84 the market cap is on $66B.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in December when all the people holding the stock hoping that it will go back up to what they paid for it decide that its not going to happen and they might as well sell and take the loss as a tax deduction.

  22. Peter Simpson 1

    Can someone please explain...

    ...why a robot would "like" an account?

    The obvious answer would be "because it was paid to", but this doesn't seem to be the case (at least the article doesn't mention payment, only spam advertising).

    So who gains? Or are these robots just programmed to scan their inboxes and "like" every Facebook account they can identify.

    Or is something else going on here?

  23. TheWeddingPhotographer

    in the real world.

    I paid by people actually booking me, not liking me

    Lots of noise isn't the same as turnover

  24. MrT

    So, headlines written to suit webscrapers...

    ... I wonder where El Reg headlines score in all that - hopefully you're with the Times hacks on this, wave the appropriate digit at the robots and carry on writing headlines and sub-heads that are capable of threatening the keyboard of any real person reading them. Genuinely side-busting stuff in many cases - I'll read the articles but the poetry and alliteration will be lost on a 'bot...

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: So, headlines written to suit webscrapers...

      It's a hard job: yes, we write headlines that we want to write because no one else in the IT/Science/Business/Politics world will dare write them. Yes, we channel tabloid humour. Yes, we high five ourselves when someone hits headline gold. No, we don't worry if a Google bot doesn't get the joke.

      As far as Google News is concerned, headlines aren't the be all and end all.

      PS: I know of one print-based publishing house that urges its writers to get the word 'torrent' into online headlines to boost traffic..


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The interesting question for me

    Where's the money coming from to pay for the fake likes? After all, these people aren't doing it for fun, unless they are spectacularly perverse.

    Who benefits?

    I can't tell from this story. this story appears to be more concerned about fake accounts. I'm interested in why they are doing it?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Graham Marsden

    Just as clever headlines [...] and other journalistic tricks

    Phew! It's a good job El Reg doesn't use that sort of thing...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate FB Like buttons on none FB pages

    Where I live FB and Tw*tter are banned, any attempt to access one of their URL's ends up in a 10 second wait, so you can understand how very throughly ticked off I am with web pages having damb blasted "like" buttons on them ! 1FB button and 1 Tw* button and it's a 20 second wait.

    So, any budding site designers, if you put those buttons on your web pages, you'll surely end up on my "do not visit" list :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hate FB Like buttons on none FB pages

      Can you tell us where you live?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I hate FB Like buttons on none FB pages

        I suspect it could be the middle east or China. I live in the UAE and they routinely block stuff though not twitter and FB at present.

        That said, anybody reading the Reg should surely be savvy enough to sort a VPN out?

    2. frank ly

      Re: I hate FB Like buttons on none FB pages

      I use the Request Policy add-on for Firefox. It stops all kinds of crap from being loaded - I recommend it.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook, me no rikey


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who Benefits?

    Facebook claim this isn't a major problem and their advertisers are happy with the service they receive, but the only benefactor from this is facebook. Businesses paying for their page to be promoted by facebook and all of a sudden they get 5,00 'likes' and think the advertising is working so they pay facebook more money for more advertising when in fact it's all BS accounts in the far east. Meanwhile facebook coin it in from the advertising. They won't target eliminating this problem as its in their interest to keep this going.

    The cynic in me might suggest these accounts are paid for on behalf of facebook

  30. Freshp2


    well blow me up and bring the hefty bags.... its time to rake in the leaves....... I feel for zuck, the kid is just a cool kid who's seen his monster, oops I mean baby grow up and take on the world, to only get on the playground with the big boys, and get shoooowed away for not being about making serious coin. Now the stats are coming into question?, whats next, zuch is really not the CEO? he's just the figurehead.......

  31. TeeCee Gold badge

    Irony alert!

    Scores so far for this article:

    61 (Ok 62 now) Comments and.................60 Facebook "likes"........

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