Real money from fake attention?

Youtube video by the channel Veritasium, suggest that a social media company, which name starts with an F, gets a big chunk of it’s income from fake profiles, fake likes, fake attention. That content is amazing, and what is much more amazing is the upheaval it has not stirred up.

Bank sites most likely have very small number of fake identities as users. Fake identities would cause the banks more harm than good, eat up their credibility and trustworthiness. Therefore the registration and signup processes are much more robust than those of any social media platform.

Why is this so? Could the reason be that to the social media platforms, the fake profiles cause more good than harm? The platforms sell attention, and to them the amount of fake profiles is more or less a non-issue. Essentially, what they sell is the amount of attention, not the quality of it. Surely it is odd, how there hasn’t been any major moves to improve the verification of user identity, especially in the social media platforms. Is it a coincidence that by far the biggest benefactors from this lack of identification are the owners of the platforms, as they get their money from advertisers?

It seems that the platforms tolerate a big number of “wrong” things simply in the altar of “increasing the user base.” If a thing increases the user base, but is questionable in the moral sense, well the money in the other cup usually weighs more. Plus that the competition is fierce, if they don’t abuse a thing, the competitors surely will.

Let’s  say they would sell 100.000 likes, or views. If the fake profiles were removed, that goal would be significantly harder for the platform to reach. In short, the strengthening of the user identity verification, would force them to work much harder. If the fake profiles, likes and views were removed, a huge chunk of users would cease to exist. Therefore a huge amount of income to the platforms would vanish.  

This current state of things also goes to show just how deeply we still are in the “wild west” stage of the internet. How even most of the basic concepts of the internet are still mainly in the dark from the majority of the people, even in the positions of power. Even among the people who create and pass national laws concerning these matters.

The laws passed by the government in Finland, concerning the copyright and internet piracy, is a painfully obvious example of people being unaware of what they were actually doing. The fact that they were passing laws which they did not fully comprehend. Instead they relied solely to the assumption that some people, that they had some confidence, hopefully had some understanding. Needless to say, the end result makes you want to cover your face with your hand. If you disagree, the other option is that the government was fully aware and intentionally working against the rights of the public they were supposed to be serving. You pick.

Naturally the social media platforms have a responsibility to publicly condemn the existence of the fake profiles and assure the advertisers that they are doing their best to get rid of them as much as possible. Also, one has to admit that this is not an easy problem to solve. as an example, it has been proved that although a person is real, his account is real, but his actions are clearly that of a click farm. This means that the click farms of today have no single location. The click farm employees are intentionally scattered around the world. The identification of fake profiles would rely heavily on costly human labour.

Video platform, which name starts with an N, knows they would lose many of their European customers, if the customers should lose the (illegal) access to the american video catalogue. At the same time they have to assure the video rights owners that they are doing their best to block the illegal access. It is no coincidence though that the ability to access the american library from elsewhere is still open, after many years, as it it for the benefit of the platform to be so.

The significant and obviously artificial changes in the number of subscribers displayed by many popular video content creators goes to prove that a significant portion of the user base is more or less artificial.

There has been algorithms to detect click farm behavior for long now. That is required by the advertisers, as they want real people to consume their ad’s. Bots and click farms are useless to them. They would pay real money from fake results. The platform get’s their money when a like is clicked. To the platform, it’s irrelevant how real or fake the like is, as long as it’s being clicked.

Some people have actually tested this, with crushing results: loads of likes with zero engagement. Advertisers surely know this. But why are they silent? Because their existence and survival is solely dependent on the same social media platforms that are “cheating” them? They cannot bite the hand that feeds them? The social media platforms get the majority of the attention anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much. Who cares if big chunk of the views are fake if the closest competitor has only a fraction of the attention anyway? Even if the worst estimates are correct, the number of their real users would still easily beat the competition. If you are dominating the market, your cheating is tolerated, because there are no real alternatives. And the advertisers financial result are better than ever before in any case (because of the skillful appliance of user behavior, big data.)

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