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The race for Facebook "Likes" is on!
- Ahalya Narendran

July 22, 2013

In addition to the standard list of status symbols that those obsessed with their social status today buy with money, such as newspaper reviews, TV appearances, dance awards and titles, and real estate on the Moon, there is a brand new item: Facebook likes. It seems, it is not just the US State Department who buy ‘Likes’ on Facebook , but some Bharatanatyam schools have gone on the likes buying spree as well. Just a couple of months ago, the page of a very young Bharatanatyam school had steadily grown over the years to list over 2000 likes, while the number of people who "liked" the page of the large Bharatanatyam school where she studied since the school was 10% of its present strength was nearly 8 times less and hardly growing. Apparently, the school's PR managers were unwilling to realise that not everybody out of the 300+ students in their school is a born dancer. Extraordinary talent and skill cannot be mass produced at dance factories.

The PR managers, faced with the problem of virtually zero new likes adding, came up with a miracle solution: buy fake likes! We know that the US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations, but the similar smaller scale software - though a bit imperfect has been on the hackers' market for quite a long while. So imperfect that a trained eye can easily spot the foul.

First, on the school's page one could gather interesting pieces of statistics, as illustrated by these two screenshots:

As you see in the first image, the number of likes skyrocketed from 380 to 2140 very fast. The number of new likes per week before and after the sudden spikes is practically zero.

Facebook allows one to view just 100 people who liked a page, but if you want to see more, there is a very simple solution: go to Google's search box, type the name of the Facebook page in quotes followed by "". Now, we could see all the 3532 search results leading to the Facebook profiles who liked the page.

Next, how do we distinguish the fake likes from the real? Very simple. Open a dozen or two of the profiles and check out two parameters: the number of pages the person liked and the number of groups the member signed up to. If either of these numbers is greater than 2000, it is a potentially fake / hijacked profile. Identify a few of these, and send them a message asking about what made them like the page in question or join the group. You will not get any response from those profiles that are fake or have been hijacked.

In case of the above Bharatanatyam school, 90% of the likes belong to those Facebook members each of whose profiles lists 3000-5000 liked pages.

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