Researchers at McGill University’s School of Computer Science released a paper this week that detailed how easy it is for anyone on Facebook to generate fake “Likes.” The researchers said they originally notified Facebook of the security flaw in 2013, but after nothing was done to fix the problem, they decided to go public with their information to pressure the site.
How does the scam work? It’s deceptively simple. First, a user must create a Facebook post with the target URL. They can then generate up to 20 fake Likes per minute by adding fake comments, deleting the post and repeating. This generates three fake likes at a time, and deleting the post doesn’t reduce the number of Likes on the original page where the post and like button live.
While fake Likes may seem relatively harmless, the monetary impact of so many empty clicks could be enormous.
“Those Like numbers may be faked,” Xue Liu, a professor of computer science at McGill, told Computer World. “There are easy ways to generate those fake Likes, and unfortunately on the Internet, a lot of companies and economic benefits are related to the number of Likes now.”
Facebook works hard to eliminate fake profiles and fake Likes from its pages, but this is a potentially massive loophole that, at least for now, remains unaddressed.