back to article Fake ruse: USA Today calls the FBI after half of its 15m Facebook Likes turn out to be bogus

You'd think the FBI has enough on its plate with the threat of terrorism, political investigations, and attempts to nobble end-to-end encryption. Now USA Today has called in the Feds after spammers bombarded its Facebook page with bogus likes. On Monday, Gannett, the publisher of the newspaper that so frequently gets stepped …

  1. jake Silver badge

    USA Today still exists?

    Who knew?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USA Today still exists?

      Yeah, weren't they "America's Newspaper?" One question; what's a newspaper? :P

      Seriously, all those Bangladesh based accounts should do something useful, like friending only people with less than 5 friends, or some other such contrivance. Can you imagine being sad about having few FB "friends" only to wake up and find you suddenly have 4 million friends, and they all work for the NY Yankees?! That would be awesome for you, Kip Drordy*!


      1. a_yank_lurker

        Re: USA Today still exists?

        "Yeah, weren't they "America's Newspaper?" One question; what's a newspaper? :P" - not really, they were at best a third-rate fish wrap.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: USA Today still exists?

          Fishwrap? Not with all that gaudy ink. Herb Caen would be appalled ...

  2. The Nazz

    I'm a little disappointed.

    I thought the story would go on to tell of fraudulent advertising and someone wanted half of their money back off of Facefooked.

    Must be hundreds/thousands of such companies out there who'd be due refunds.

    Mind you, daft buggers for spending so much on facefook adverts in the first place.

  3. Alistair

    6 million likes from obviously fake accounts.

    Now, lets see the *advertisers* on facebook deal with this idea. Y'know the idiots that are paying facebook to advertise and collect likes for them.............................

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    "successfully spam their victims with links to tat online"

    I include Facebook in that category.

    1. CustardGannet

      "The goal is to fool legitimate Facebook users..."

      Fancy that, 'Facebook users' and 'fool' in the same sentence...

  5. frank ly


    "Maribel Wadsworth, USA Today's SVP and chief transformation officer ...."

    I imagine her making sure that staff members know how to properly turn into vampires and werewolves, etc.

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: Imagination

      ""Maribel Wadsworth, USA Today's SVP and chief transformation officer ...."

      I imagine her making sure that staff members know how to properly turn into vampires and werewolves, etc."

      I think you mean zombies...

  6. Richard 12 Silver badge

    So 6 to 9 million fake accounts?

    That Facebook admitted to finding in a single trawl of two corporate pages?

    I'm guessing the FBI are being asked to investigate Facebook for possibly defrauding advertisers.

    According to Facebook's own figures this one set of fakes is 0.5% of all Facebook accounts worldwide.

    How many other fakes?

    1. VinceH

      Re: So 6 to 9 million fake accounts?

      You're comparing the number of fake "likes" here with the overall number of Facebook profiles - but shouldn't the number of fake "likes" in this instance be taken as a percentage of the overall number of likes for the page in question, and that percentage then be applied to the number of profiles Facebook claims to have?

      Suddenly, it's a whole lot more than 0.5%

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: So 6 to 9 million fake accounts?

        Good point. Statistically that probably means there aren't any real users of Facebook at all.

        They're all clockwork hats.

  7. tedleaf

    And this is why fb claim almost 2 billion accounts but always forget to mention that only half a billion are real and of those only about 250 m are real,active accounts run by real individuals.

    Do your own quick survey by asking folk you meet in a bowl day if they have a fb account and if yes,how often they use it.

    Fb is almost as big a con as twatter,total bs figures aimed solely at getting huge inflated ipo's from greedy morons hoping to make an easy killing..

    Strange how many American super corps like crapple,microshit,fuckbook all seem to have had their start from commiting a criminal act of theft from someone else !!!

    and then continue in the same way for the rest of their existence..

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "fb claim almost 2 billion accounts but always forget to mention..."





      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "fb claim almost 2 billion accounts but always forget to mention..."

        That would have been faintly amusing if you'd laid off the capitals and written it as a sentence.

        1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge


          No power on Earth would make me watch Facebook's movie, but even I got that it was a reference to its poster

  8. Elmer Phud

    Why is this the fault of FB?

    Odd that so many seem to say it' all down to FB.

    I wonder how many people who are Reg readers also have dozens of sock puppets, chuckaway email accounts, etc.etc. but it's fine for them to use them?

    anyway that 's a lot of pairs of sunglasses

    1. hellwig

      Re: Why is this the fault of FB?

      I don't use Facebook but my understanding is that they try to enforce a "real identify" policy. That is, Facebook wants each account to be a real person. No parody accounts, no fictional accounts, just real people and organizations.

      I've heard stories of people being punished or put through undue stress by Facebook when there was even a hint that their account was fake. Ask Justin Bieber, the middle-aged man from Florida who had his account banned because it was "obviously fake". Surely there can't be TWO people with that name in the world!

      Facebook makes a big show that their accounts are real. Then stories come out about how thousands (millions for USA Today?) of fake accounts are being detected. That's a big problem if you build your platform on the premise that real people can connect to other real people.

      I don't think Hotmail or Yahoo ever promised anyone there was a real person behind each email account.

  9. Named coward

    Facebook finegrained controls

    "The newspaper no longer accepts likes on its page from accounts recently registered in the country"

    Accept likes? From recently registerd accounts? From a specific country? Does Facebook really provide such fineg-rained tuning for accepting likes? Why does it even have the option to reject a like? I'm trying to figure out a real-world analogy for this functionality: "I like that newspaper"..."no, you can't, try again in a few months"

    1. DropBear

      Re: Facebook finegrained controls

      Maybe it works along the lines of (USA Today : 999999 likes) -> *click like* -> "Woohoo, good job, you did an awesome thing! *liked*" -> (USA Today : 999999 likes)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Why the FBI is involved?

    Because someone at USA Today cried "Let's call the FB idiots, and ask them about all these bogus profiles", and someone understood "let's call the FBI..."

    1. Alister

      Re: Why the FBI is involved?

      FBI = Face Book Investigations

  11. Cuddles

    Never quite understood the logic

    "It's believed the masterminds of these fake accounts give pages such as USA Today and American sports teams the thumbs up to appear more legit: it makes the robo-users look more real when attempting to befriend people on the social network so they can successfully spam their victims with links to tat online."

    "Here's a person I've never met or heard of in any way with no friends or activities in common and a suspicious looking stock photo, but hey, they like USA Today so they must be a totally legitimate friend that I can safely give all my bank and identity details to."

    I know it's cool to hate on Facebook around here, but it's actually useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family around the world, organising events, sharing photos and so on. But it's useful for doing these things with people you actually know. I just don't understand why anyone would ever accept friend requests from obviously fake accounts, or how people can be stupid enough not to spot obviously fake accounts just because they happen to have liked USA Today.

    1. 2Nick3

      Re: Never quite understood the logic

      Too many people have their self-value defined by the number of "Friends" they have and the number of Likes their posts get.

      Is it really 15 minutes of fame when it's the summation of 900k separate milliseconds?

    2. hellwig

      Re: Never quite understood the logic

      How many of your friends and family do you actually interact with on Facebook (hold conversations, exchange ideas, etc)? And how many of those people would you otherwise have no other means of contacting? Facebook may be useful for expanding your social presence, but many people would probably find other providers. There are plenty of companies offering email, messaging, video chat, phone calls, pen pals, messages in bottles, smoke signals, ham radio. Facebook is just the fad du jour for doing those things.

      As for who falls for these fake accounts, it's the people that DON'T have 10,000 friends. It's the people who left MySpace because Tom was their only friend. Those desperate few will take any attention they can get. They will overlook the stock photos and odd likes list and suspect grasp of the vernacular if it means someone is paying attention to them. To those people, Facebook isn't a means to "keep in touch", it's their only outlet to the outside world.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Never quite understood the logic

      It's primarily for advertising fraud.

      Controlling a few million "unique visitors" can quickly get a dodgy website a lot of advertising revenue from ad-slingers.

      Facebook claim that all their accounts are unique, real people, so take that money for a few million impressions from the advertisers, skim their percentage and pass it on to the websites.

      Hence this being fraud. The question is who defrauded who...

  12. Sleep deprived

    "fool legitimate FB users into making (fake) friends with these fake accounts"

    Aren't most FB friends kinda fake anyways? Like they'd rather stay home and watch you move flat than actually come and haul boxes?

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