I wrote a few times over the past few years about the growth in so called crowdturfing, which is basically buying fake followers, likes and so on to inflate ones social media presence. It first came to my attention back in 2012, with a UC Santa Barbara study revealing it was already worth millions of dollars.
A subsequent study last year by UC Berkeley found that there were around 30 companies selling fake followers on Twitter, with a combined number of fake accounts into the millions. Whilst they revealed that Twitter was pretty successful at removing the fake accounts, they also said that their study had unearthed just 20% of the total market.
According to the paper, the average cost for a Twitter account is only $0.04. Facebook accounts vary, averaging between $0.45-1.50 per account if it is phone verified, or as low as $0.10 per account without verification. Phone verified Google accounts are about $0.03-0.50 per account; while Hotmail ($0.004-0.03) and Yahoo ($0.006-0.015) accounts are priced way below the norm due to their wide availability.
The issue has reared its head again this week courtesy of an Associated Press investigation into the industry that in addition to fake followers will also provide you with fake LinkedIn followers, YouTube views and all manner of other things.
For instance, the State Department revealed back in 2013 that it had spent $630,000 on boosting the number of likes it had on its Facebook page (400,000 currently), whilst the pages of people such as Leo Messi reveal huge number of ‘fans’ in rather surprising places.
Arguably the most intriguing example however comes from CareerExcuse.com, who for a fee will garnish your CV with any number of fake employers. This isn’t just a case of making up fake employments however, this goes further than that.
For a small fee, they promise to not only craft an elaborate lie based on your exact job specifications but to see it through for as long as necessary. The site will provide a live HR operator and staged supervisor, along with building and hosting a virtual company website—complete with a local phone number and toll-free fax. CareerExcuse will even go so far as to make the fake business show up on Google Maps.
So they’ll create an imaginary company, and then provide recruiters with a glowing reference for you from that fake company, all for a fee of around $150. They are not alone of course, with sites such as The Reference Store offering similar services.
On the web, it seems, fakery knows no bounds.