If you’ve ever clicked on a Facebook link like “Hey click here for a free iPhone” then you’ve probably helped spammers earn $200m every year.
Italian researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli have found that spammers posting link that lead a user to an outside network has become a lucrative business.
Often the links are shortened using services like Tinyurl.com and bit.ly which hide the destination a user is directed to. However, researchers can track the number of clickthroughs for a link through stats provided by the URL shortening sites.
These posts breach Facebook’s terms of service which states that “third-party advertisements on [fan]Pages are prohibited without our prior permission.”
Spammers generally set up their own “fan pages” and build up an audience before they start selling links on it to third parties. The researchers found 20 key sites where spammers were offering to post spam links for cash.
“The spam posters get paid an average of $13 per post, for pages that have around 30,000 fans, up to an average of $58 to post on pages with more than 100,000 fans,” De Micheli told the Guardian. “If we consider these two as extremes, the pages we analysed generate a revenue of 18,000 posts per day, times the revenue per post – ranging from $13 to $58 – 365 days a year.”
However, spammers argue that they provide “funny and interesting content”.
“Facebook doesn’t ban us, simply because we generate the content on Facebook itself. Everyday I materialize funny, and interesting content full of phrases and so forth that is shared and liked by thousands of users. Without the fan pages Facebook would be an empty place. Tell me how many links do you see shared by your friends on your timeline everyday? You see – the answer is simple,” a spammer told the researchers.
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