Social Media posts from political parties and businesses in Germany all got a boost from a company that paid people to engage with online content.
Since 2012, a list of around 89,000 social media posts and websites benefitted from the work of Magdeburg-based company “Paid Likes,” which pays an army of internet users to like requested posts across Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, reported German public broadcasters WDR, NDR and the daily Süddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) on Wednesday.
The list of links included 17 each from the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party. Germany’s Social Democrats’ had 14 posts on the list while and the far-right Alternative for Germany had 11.
Roman Müller-Böhm, the 27-year-old chairman of FDP Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia, who campaigns for consumer protection on the internet, was discovered to have paid for likes on more than 40 posts on both his Facebook and Instagram accounts during 2018.
He declined to comment to the news outlets.
Who else paid for an online popularity boost in Germany?
Many people, groups and institutions paid to be more visible online — politicians, influencers, beauty therapists, hairdressers and fitness trainers.
The German military was found to have paid for likes and views for a YouTube recruitment video. The video has more than 1 million clicks on the online video and streaming platforms.
The discovery comes as governments and social media platforms take action to stem fake news and a year after
The likes-for-money scheme was uncovered after the Ruhr-University in Bochum found Paid Likes’ services were not tightly programmed, facilitating access to the data.
“But the campaign pages don’t tell us who sponsored the campaigns,” Bochum researcher Dennis Tatang said. “So it’s possible that the institution or person who runs a Facebook page didn’t buy the likes for it themselves.”
An analysis of the Paid Likes campaigns showed that 86% of them ran on Facebook. 5.6% were on YouTube, and the rest on other social networks, including a German dating platform.
Paying for likes is common among users of social media looking to expand their online footprint as algorithms boost posts that receive most engagement in the form of likes and comments, but information about who is paying for likes and on which posts generally remain hidden from the public.
Facebook, responding to a request from the three German media outlets, said, “We delete vendors and accounts that offer to boost the popularity of profiles or accounts through false likes, commentaries and subscribers if we find them.”
Earning a few cents a day
Paid Likes charged around €11 ($12.25) for 100 likes on a social media post.
Some 30,000 users signed up to carry out the task of liking posts across social media for the company. About 3,000 users were active in distributing likes in the last month.Workers receive around €0.03 per 40 likes via Paid Likes site for their efforts.
The post German political parties paid for Instagram, Facebook likes appeared first on Deutsche Welle.