Thursday, January 9, 2014

Are "Click Farms" The Latest (Dishonest, Abusive) Way To Get Ahead On The Internet?

Web sites, on line companies and such live and die by the number of "clicks" they get.
Workers in Dhaka toil at a "click farm" the latest
way to cheat via the Internet 

In other words, the more people who visit the sites, the more ad revenue is generated and the richer the proprietors of the web sites and businesses get.

So of course, people cheat to get more clicks.

There are computer programs that generate lots of fake clicks, but the folks at search engines like Google have ways of sniffing out these scammy operations, and punish the guilty accordingly by making sure they are not among the first thing people see when searching for the company.

So, it's come to this: Click farms. It's the latest of man scams that always seem to sweep the Internet.

It's something I'd never heard of until recently, but here's how it works:

People in foreign countries get barely paid to sit in drab rooms and click on sites, day in and day out. Imagine how boring that is: Click on a site, back out, click on another, just to increase the number of times a site has been visited

According to the Associated Press, the offshore click farms are where "workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up botton, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers. 

Since Facebook launched almost 10 years ago, users have sought to expand their social networks for financial gain, winning friends, bragging rights and professional clout. And social media companies ite the levels of engagement to tout their value. 

But an Associated Press examination has found a growing global marketplace for fake clicks, which tech companies struggle to police. Online records, industry studies and interviews show companies are capitalizing on the opportunity to make millions of dollars by duping social media.

"The CEO of Dhaka-based social media promotions firm Unique IT World said he ahs paid workers to manually click on clients' social media pages, making it harder for Facebook, Google and others to catch them. 'These accounts are not fake, they were genuine,' Shaiful Islam said."

According to The Guardian, toiling at overseas click farms is drudgery, and not a way to get rich:

"For the workers, though, it is miserable work, sitting at screens in dingy rooms facing a blank wall, with windows covered by bars, and sometimes working through the night. For that, they could have to generate 1,000 likes or follow 1,000 people on Twitter to earn a single U.S. dollar." 

It's cheating, but it's hard to catch.  Still, people are working on it.

And just like everything else on the Internet, a good public shaming can result if somebody is using a click farm to pretend they are more popular than they are.

According to the Associated Press:

"David Burch, at TubeMogul, a video marketin firm based in Emeryville, Calif., said buying clicks to promote clients is a grave error. "It's bad business," he said. "and if an advertiser ever found out you did that, they'd never do business with you again." 

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