Facebook announced a crackdown on spam characterized by “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The spammers avoided detection by using engaging content. The content itself was not spammy. Thus, Facebook changed tactics by using behavior signals to identify the spammers.
What Kind of Spam is Facebook Targeting?
Facebook is targeting a kind of spam that uses knowledge of Facebook’s algorithms to generate traffic to websites laden with advertising. This is a spammy and non-conventional form of social media optimization.
Social Media Optimization (SMO) is similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Both approaches are used to increase traffic to a website. The difference is that SMO leverages Social Media while SEO focuses on search engines.
SMO, when properly practiced, abides by Facebook’s terms of service. What Facebook is targeting is SMO that breaks the rules.
SMO spam exploits loopholes in Facebook’s algorithms to increase the reach of their content. The goal is to send massive amounts of traffic to what Facebook calls, Ad Farms.
SMO spam is different from the usual spam Facebook has been fighting.
This is Facebook’s description of traditional spam activity:
“…One common type of spam has been posts that hawk fraudulent products like fake sunglasses or weight loss “remedies.” “
And this is how Facebook describes the new kind of spam:
“But a lot of the spam we see today is different. The people behind it create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms. “
Spammers Influencing Facebook News Feed Algorithm
The SMO spammers are using Facebook’s own algorithms against it. For example, spammers artificially inflate user engagement metrics on their Facebook Pages. This increases the reach of those pages in news feeds. Increasing their reach helps the spammers drive traffic to their ad farms.
How Spammers Tricked Facebook
Facebook previously used engagement metrics to increase the reach of trivial content like memes, videos, and quizzes. Facebook changed their algorithms to reward content that was more meaningful.
In the new algorithm, Facebook increased the reach of more meaningful content, content that generated more engagement. And those were two of the loopholes that the SMO spammers exploited.
The SMO spammers created political content that engaged people in discussions. This in turn generated engagement metrics.
The spammers then used hundreds of Facebook pages and accounts to generate engagement signals.
“”The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites. And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares.
…these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site.”
Facebook Targeting Behavior Signals
Because the content is not spammy in itself, the spammers had been able to evade detection. Facebook has learned that to target the spammers behavior signals. This way they will be able to catch what Facebook terms, “inauthentic behavior.”
“This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.”
As of this date, Facebook has removed 559 spam Facebook Pages and 251 fake Facebook accounts. Facebook promises to improve their ability to catch SMO spammers. No doubt the SMO spammers will adapt to Facebook countermeasures.
Read the entire Facebook announcement here:
Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook