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If you’re running a business, I’m sure somewhere on the road you might have received a proposition for getting Facebook likes for your business’ Facebook page. Considering that nowadays people gauge the authenticity of a brand through its Facebook page and number of likes, many of you might have even fallen prey to this scam and taken the deal. But, be rest assured, this party is not going to last for long.

Recently, researchers, from the University of Iowa in the US and Lahore University of Management Science in Pakistan have unearthed a security loophole on social networking site Facebook that is responsible for allowing about a million accounts, including both real and fake, to generate about a whopping 100 million “likes” and comments and contribute towards building a manipulating online social reputation of brands and people alike.

During their research, the researchers discovered sites that are currently functioning as ‘collusion networks,’ which are responsible for generating Facebook likes for free.

The Facebook like game works basically like this. Not only does a page with more likes holds more authenticity/credibility in the eyes of a general person, but a post with more likes is more likely to gets placed higher in order in other people’s Facebook feeds. The bottom line is, users/pages with fakes likes have an advantage of generating more influence and attention on one of the biggest social networking site that there is right now.

According to the researchers, for people to participate in this Fake likes scam, they have to provide the networks a wide-ranging access to their Facebook accounts, so that those accounts can be put to use for liking others.

Not only fake likes/comments, the Fake News trend on Social Media has also been there for a while. But, the world really took a notice of the situation during last year’s US Presidential elections where it was alleged that fake stories on Facebook helped tip the balance in a particular candidates’ favour.

According to CBS News, the researchers even tracked the collusion networks in the run-up to the aforementioned high profile election, but could not find out for certain if the networks were utilised to boost posts that would benefit or hurt a particular candidate.

While on the face of it, it might seem that fake Facebook likes cannot do any real world damage, but the research team has a completely different take on it. While the team couldn’t find out if the networks were used to boost or destroy the profile of a particular candidate during last year’s US Presidential elections, but it does warn that that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for these purposes in the future. In fact, the team believes that these networks can be used for way more darker purposes than just getting some fake likes/comments. According to them, in addition to manipulating online reputation, these networks are also capable of stealing personal information of Facebook users.

It is time for Facebook to study the research done by these researchers and take some concrete steps to protect the interest of its 2 billion users.

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