* New automated system will remove fraudulent Likes
* Less than 1 pct of Likes on any page likely to be removed
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 31 Facebook Inc is
weeding out fake "Likes" on its social network that are being
caused by spammers, malware and black marketeers as it strives
to maintain credibility as an advertising platform.
Facebook said the number of Likes, or endorsements by users,
on corporate pages is likely to drop by less than 1 percent, on
average, after the crackdown.
"Newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes
gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or
purchased bulk Likes," Facebook said in a post on its official
blog on Friday.
"While we have always had dedicated protections against each
of these threats on Facebook, these improved systems have been
specifically configured to identify and take action against
suspicious Likes," the post continued.
Thanks to a growing black market, companies can instantly
raise their profile on Facebook by purchasing thousands of Likes
at a time - a practice that is forbidden by the No. 1 social
network, which has 955 million users.
Many of these Likes come from bogus Facebook user accounts
rather than genuine users of the social network.
Meanwhile, various spam-like programs on Facebook deceive
users into unwittingly liking something when they perform
another action, such as clicking to watch a video.
Facebook said the cleanup will benefit both users and
companies that maintain pages on the network, by giving a more
accurate measurement of fan count and demographics.
Ensuring the integrity of Likes is serious business for
Facebook, which depends on advertising revenue from large brands
and other businesses. Many of the ad campaigns that companies
conduct on Facebook are designed to garner Likes - a sign that
their marketing message has resonated with consumers.
"It's their currency," said Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at
research firm Altimeter Group. "Facebook is playing the Federal
Reserve, to take the counterfeit currency off the market to
ensure that there's quality in the marketplace."
The problem is not unique to Facebook, say analysts, who
note that Twitter and Google Inc also grapple with fake
accounts, spam and other techniques to game the service.
But for Facebook, the pressure to show that activity on its
social network is genuine has grown as concerns have mounted on
Wall Street about the company's long-term profit potential.
Shares of Facebook set a new low on Friday, falling as much
as 5.3 percent to $18.08, after brokerages cut their price
targets on the stock. Facebook has lost more than 50 percent of
its market value since its initial public offering in May.
Facebook estimates that 1.5 percent of its users are
"undesirable" accounts set up for purposes that violate its
terms of service, according to its most recent 10-Q regulatory
"I think what they're intending to do is get a handle on it
before it gets really out of control," Brian Blau, an analyst
with research firm Gartner, said.
"You can imagine no business wants to pay for advertising to