Facebook Pages is a thriving farm for spam links, with the business reaching an annual minimum of $200 million USD. Researchers say each post with a spam link is valued from $13 to $58, but this is contingent on the number of Facebook likes – fake or authentic – the page has accumulated.
With only two servers and two days in July, the independent team of Italian researchers, headed by Andrea Stroppa, Carlo De Micheli, and Danny Di Stefano, rummaged nearly 700,000 posts and categorized just about 37,000 of those posts as spam.
The group said they found about 30,000 Facebook Pages marketed on underground spam forums. Afterward, they examined the Pages to find posts followed by shortened links or have specific keywords, such as “free,” “click here,” “join,” or “wow.”
Stroppa said they have come across a daily rate of at least 20,000 posts with wild spam links that lead to fake news, e-commerce, affiliations, pornography, and scams.
The six-member team of researchers, the same group who unfolded, through The New York Times, the lucrative multimillion dollar business of fake Twitter followers, studied a number of underground spam forums. They discovered that spam posts may be vended from $8 to $20 – a $13 average – for Facebook Pages with less than 30,000 likes. Moreover, Facebook Pages with 100,000 Likes or higher may post spam links for up to $100 dollars, whereas spam posts for pages with millions of fans may be sold for up to $200.
Under its terms of service, Facebook prohibits Facebook Pages administrators from posting advertisements. A passage on the Facebook Pages guidelines says third-party ads on Pages are banned without the company’s prior authorization.
Industry experts say Facebook spam is a growing problem, even though it is not as prevalent as email spam. The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2012 that only 4 percent of content shared on the world’s largest social networking site is spam.
If spam links continue to gain traction on Facebook, it will turn into a serious problem. It will have an impact not only because some people successfully advertise on the platform without paying a single cent to the company, but also because users may get irritated with numerous spam posts and eventually leave Facebook.
The researchers said a spammer told them that Facebook will not ban spammers for the mere reason that they generate content on the platform. The unnamed informant claims to concoct interesting content shared and liked by thousands of Facebook users, and added that Facebook will be empty without Pages.
Stroppa, who concealed the name of the spammer, said Facebook lacks effort to fight against the burgeoning problem and may turn a blind eye to it since it may not affect much of the company operations and revenue.
Facebook declined to give a comment on the findings but a spokesperson sent this statement:
Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam is a top priority for us. We have developed a number of systems to identify spam and stop it from spreading, and we have mechanisms in place to quickly shut down Pages, accounts, and applications that are found to be in violation of our terms of service. We also offer tools for people to report Pages and posts that might be spam. We will continue to improve our spam-fighting systems so we can to ensure that the overall level of spam on Facebook remains low.