Huge numbers of “likes” appearing on social networking sites such as Facebook have been found to originate in “click farms” in places like Dhaka, Bangladesh, where low-paid workers spend long hours punching keys to artificially inflate the online popularity of client companies.

Hired clickers can be paid as little as $120 per year for laboring over “screens in dingy rooms facing a blank wall, with windows covered by bars, and sometimes working through the night,” Guardian technology editor Charles Arthur reports.

The ease with which humble products and non-attractions (thanks to click farms, hundreds of people appear to love zucchinis enough to “like” them on Facebook, Arthur writes) can “win approval calls into question the basis on which many modern companies measure success online — through Facebook likes, YouTube video views and Twitter followers” and undercuts “what had looked like an objective measure of social online approval.”

Workers can earn as little as a single U.S. dollar for generating 1,000 likes or following 1,000 people on Twitter. And Internet users are justified in being suspicious of the merit of a site, personality or product that appears to be getting a lot of attention.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Charles Arthur at The Guardian:

Faked internet use has been a bugbear of the burgeoning advertising industry ever since the web went commercial in the mid-1990s and the first banner ad was rolled out in 1996.

The rise of advertising networks and “pay-per-click” advertising – where an advertiser pays the network when someone clicks on an advert, whether or not it leads to a sale – also saw a rise in faked clicks which benefited unscrupulous networks.

And it is still a problem. In February, Microsoft and Symantec shut down a “botnet” of up to 1.8m PCs that were being used to create an average of 3m clicks per day, raking in $1m per year since 2009.

But click farms exploit a different sort of computing power altogether: the rise of cheap labour paired with low-cost connectivity to the internet.

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