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Popularity is For Sale

The measure of your impact in social media is often the number of followers or views that you have.  The theory being that better, more interesting, or more popular individuals and content will naturally draw a larger follower base than those of lesser interest.  However, it seems that everywhere you turn there are individuals willing to venture into ethical grey areas to get ahead.  The New York Times wrote this lengthy but fascinating article titled The Follower Factory.

The article covers a number of topics including social identity theft and the practice of buying Likes, followers, YouTube views, and more.  The article states that nearly 15% of Twitter’s reported active users are actually automated accounts designed to simulate real people.  Facebook disclosed that they have up to 60 million automated accounts.  The range of people buying these fake accounts is staggering.  Professional athletes, politicians, entertainers, TED speakers, and church pastors are just a small sampling of the customers knowingly buying fake followers to boost their social media status.  These accounts are also used to support overseas governments, promote products and services, and promote pornography.  Some of these accounts are auto-generated but many of them are duplicates of actual people making it look like those individuals are the ones promoting those views, products, or services.

The article also discusses the incentives many companies put in place that unintentionally encourage people to participate in this activity.  Overall it is a very interesting article and could lead to a rich class discussion.

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