How many times have you seen a post shared by a Facebook friend which claims you can win an iPad, Argos vouchers, or a share of Mark Zuckerberg’s millions? Just by sharing the post you could be chosen. It’s clearly too good to be true, but people fall for it.
This is called like-farming, once the page gets popular with a large number of likes the original content is either replaced with something like malware or scam advertising, it collect people’s personal details, or even sells the page and followers details in a black market web forum. These pages and posts are best avoided!
This is all part of the culture of people believing anything they see online. The term ‘fake news’ is a big issue- this is where sensational news stories are published online with the intention of either generating web traffic or to mislead (or even sway political opinion).
Reporting scammers on Facebook is easy, the more people to do the better.
Then although not malicious but even on commercial newspaper websites it’s becoming much more common to see news headlines that sound intentionally vague so you click them.
The Manchester Evening News is a typical example, using anything that focuses on the great bastions of popular culture like football or soap-opera stars, to generate click throughs:
- Coronation Street star Lucy Fallon speaks for the first time about her boyfriend,
- Katie Salmon braved the chill in underwear worn as outerwear – with a bobble hat to keep warm
- Jennie McAlpine says Coronation Street fans call her Fiz – but she doesn’t mind
These are three headlines on the website today, and all designed to make you click through to the story although I will save you from the links. One of them asks you to do a survey first (so gathering data on you for advertisers), the other two play video adverts (video adverts are more lucrative for newspaper websites). They only post these stories as they know people will click (meanwhile 146 people were killed in a train disaster in India, far more important and deserving of the link- which is here).
Another blog post- ‘Social media, take control’!
This ‘click bait’ trend and the potential future of online journalism is explained more here.
I look forward to when we all get a bit smarter with what to believe online, and just like we do with cold callers on the phone, we need to get increasingly suspicious about what we click- and tell those that do click and share why they are wrong to do so!
Author: Jonathan Robinson is the Founder of Bellyflop.tv and is madly obsessed with the science of social media.