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Don’t Hit Like! How You are Inadvertently Sending Spam to Your Friends’ Feeds

Some of my best friends are spammers. They don’t hunch over computers in darkened rooms, far away from the reach of US authorities.  They’re just like you and me… well… maybe not like me since I don’t spam people, but they’re just like you, going on Starbucks runs and taking the dog to the dog park and making dinner for someone at their church and hitting like on Facebook because they do have a daughter and they do love her so, and that’s what the Facebook status told her to do.

Yes, everyone who hits like on those Facebook status updates asking you to prove that you hate cancer or to type a certain word in the comment section and see what amazing thing will happen when you do are spammers.


Image: Janetgalore via Flickr

That’s how tricky the original spammers are; they don’t need to take over your computer with a virus and force you to send their message to your entire address book. They just put spam on Facebook and people willingly hit “like” and clog their friends’ new feeds with the message.

There are some really good reasons beyond the fact that it annoys your friends why you should stop hitting like because someone’s parents will get them a puppy if they get a million likes.

It all comes down to spammers playing with the Facebook algorithm in order to deliver some higher quality spam later on.

This is how it works: a spammer creates a Facebook meme that asks people to like if they think someone is beautiful. In fact, let’s take a real example that you’ve probably seen in your news feed: Mallory. The caption is “This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful.”

So, because you have a heart, you hit like. That’s how you enter the role of spammer, sending that spam message into all of your friend’s news feeds. That should be reason enough to stop, but there is actually a larger reason to walk away from those types of memes without clicking.

The first is that those likes give power to those memes, ensuring that the meme itself and the page it comes from will get featured in the news feed. Likes are how the Facebook algorithm knows what is important, hence why your status updates that get a lot of likes and comments are seen by more of your friends than the ones that don’t receive likes and comments. Likes generate more views which generate more likes. The point, of course, is not the meme itself, but to give the pages that create the meme power so when they put out other status updates in the future, those will be seen because they have a strong Edgerank in the Facebook algorithm. Once those pages have built up their Edgerank, the spammers can sell their very valuable page that will beat the system for the new owner and dump their message or product into the Facebook river where it will bubble up on everyone’s shore.

As Daylan Does explains:

And within 3 days a post like this one has 70,000 likes, and someone somewhere is about to make a nice little profit by selling the page to a business wanting some quick wins.

Like farming also directly hurts the person who hits like since it allows spammers to quickly gather access to thousands of Facebook accounts.

Plus, there are usually very real people whose images or stories are being exploited in order to create these spam Facebook status updates. So hitting like hurts them too.

So pretty please, stop hitting like to show you hate cancer. Use your status box to rail against cancer, fundraise for cancer research, or express sympathy to someone fighting cancer. Putting up a link to the PMC takes more time than hitting like, but it actually helps fight the good fight rather than spread spam. And that is something to actually like.

So now you know.

Cross-posted with BlogHer


1 Nonsequiturchica { 05.08.13 at 8:02 am }

I hate when people do this on FB and have even posted messages saying exactly what you explained here. I have definitely seen less of them lately, but I’m sure spammers will find a new way to annoy everyone and earn money.

2 Chickenpig { 05.08.13 at 8:12 am }

I won’t like anything anymore 🙂 Except your posts, can I still like those? Can you like a person’s status w/o causing a giant spam island?

3 Tiara { 05.08.13 at 8:31 am }

I’m not an active “liker” but have liked stuff not knowing this info! Thanks!

4 a { 05.08.13 at 8:35 am }

I can still like Some ecards, right? Otherwise, I might as well get off of Facebook altogether. Oh wait…there’s still Candy Crush Saga…

I have noticed much larger amounts of marketing on FB lately, and it’s a little annoying. But I am fairly good at filtering that kind of noise out. I just wish people would stop liking those posts and cluttering up my news feeds.

5 Battynurs { 05.08.13 at 12:11 pm }

Not sure I understand. So the memes saying like this and my dad will quit smoking are a problem right? What about friends pictures? Or the couple of sites (there are only a couple right now) that I follow, what about liking a post they put up?

6 Mel { 05.08.13 at 12:16 pm }

Anything from a personal page or a Facebook page that is for a site/product/person/artist you know is FINE. Because those people have no plans to sell their page: their good name is attached to it. In other words, I follow the Robbie Boyd Band. I share or like their updates to help spread word because they’re a small band and they could use the publicity and I think they’re really talented. They also aren’t building their page with the goal of selling it. They’re building it with the goal of getting information out there to people who like the band.

The difference with those pages that pop up overnight and do they “hit like if you hate cancer!” memes is they are trying to build a lot of traffic very quickly so they can sell those pages. Those are the ones you want to watch out for. When you hit like, you’re not only flooding other people’s feed with spam; you’re opening up a thread between yourself and spammers for the future.

7 Ana { 05.08.13 at 2:34 pm }

I have never hit “like” on that crap, mostly because its stupid & annoying, but I didn’t realize it was a marketing ploy. I am also hating how many adds and memes are clogging up facebook lately. It is hard to find real updates from my friends in the midst of all that noise.

8 Esperanza { 05.08.13 at 4:08 pm }

I’m curious, are all the inspirational memes written on serene backdrops the same kind of thing? And are pages like “Legalize the Right to Bitch Slap people,” which puts up obnoxious little memes constantly, playing the same con game? I HATE all that stuff and I feel like it’s TAKING OVER my Faebook feed. Seriously. It makes me not even want to go on there at all.

I didn’t realize those horrible shaming Like memes were created to spam people but it makes perfect sense. I LOATHE those things and so glad I’ve never hit like. Knowing they are about spamming people makes me hate them less because at least that kind of stuff I understand. Ugh. Facebook is such a double edged sword.

9 Justine { 05.08.13 at 4:46 pm }

Yay! Glad that you got this message out here. Huzzah for an important PSA.

10 AnneH { 05.08.13 at 6:35 pm }

Wow! Thanks for sharing. I knew they were annoying, but didn’t really know what was behind them.

11 Alexicographer { 05.08.13 at 10:39 pm }

Hmmm. Who knew? Thanks for explaining. I have to say I dislike FB enough that while I will, e.g., like, oh, I don’t know, my stepdaughter having enjoyed a ballgame she went to or a photo a cousin of mine posts (that he took), I certainly don’t “like” anything not directly related to someone I know. Indeed, I’m grouchy/paranoid enough that if someone posts a link to e.g. a HuffPo story I want to click through to, I will log out of FB before I go over to HuffPo to read said story. So whatever my other (numerous!) shortcomings may be, I don’t think I’m part of *this* problem. Still, it’s good to understand why it *is* a problem!

12 Siochana { 05.08.13 at 10:49 pm }

I only ever “like” personal comments people write about themselves. Unless the photo or cartoon is really witty. Then I might “like” it. Very much dislike the overly political, tear-jerking crap. I hit “hide” on that.

13 Catwoman73 { 05.09.13 at 5:43 am }

My ‘likes’ are typically reserved for friends’ status updates, and cute pics of their kids… though I admit that I have fallen for these schemes a couple of times. I guess I never really thought about what someone might do with the information they get from all of those ‘likes’. I certainly won’t do it again!!!

14 Amber { 05.19.13 at 11:56 am }

I have a few friends that “like” tons of stuff, and it’s super annoying when you entire news feed is filled with them. Didn’t know about the marketing ploys, but still found it to be annoying!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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