SAN JOSE, Calif. —
Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city of 7 million in South Asia, is an international hub for click farms.
The CEO of Dhaka-based social media promotion firm Unique IT World said he has paid workers to manually click on clients’ social media pages, making it harder for Facebook, Google and others to catch them. “Those accounts are not fake, they were genuine,” Shaiful Islam said.
A recent check on Facebook showed Dhaka was the most popular city for many, including soccer star Leo Messi, who has 51 million likes; Facebook’s own security page, which has 7.7 million likes; and Google’s Facebook page, which has 15.2 million likes.
In 2013, the State Department, which has more than 400,000 likes and was recently most popular in Cairo, said it would stop buying Facebook fans after its inspector general criticized the agency for spending $630,000 to boost the numbers.
In one case, its fan tally rose from about 10,000 to more than 2.5 million.
Sometimes there are plausible explanations for click increases.
For example, Burger King’s most popular city was, for a few weeks this year, Karachi, Pakistan, after the chain opened several restaurants there.
While the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorney generals have cracked down on fake endorsements or reviews, they have not weighed in on clicks. Meanwhile, hundreds of online businesses sell clicks and social media accounts from around the world.
BuyPlusFollowers sells 250 Google+ shares for $12.95. InstagramEngine sells 1,000 followers for $12. AuthenticHits sells 1,000 SoundCloud plays for $9.
It’s a lucrative business, said the president and CEO of WeSellLikes.com.
“The businesses buy the Facebook likes because they’re afraid that when people go to their Facebook page and they only see 12 or 15 likes, they’re going to lose potential customers,” he said. The company official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he recently moved his company offshore to avoid litigation or cease-and-desist notices.