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Measuring, Characterizing, and Detecting Facebook Like Farms

Ikram, M; Onwuzurike, L; Farooqi, S; Cristofaro, ED; Friedman, A; Jourjon, G; Kaafar, D; (2017) Measuring, Characterizing, and Detecting Facebook Like Farms. ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security (TOPS) , 20 (4) , Article 13. Green open access

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Social networks offer convenient ways to seamlessly reach out to large audiences. In particular, Facebook pages are increasingly used by businesses, brands, and organizations to connect with multitudes of users worldwide. As the number of likes of a page has become a de-facto measure of its popularity and profitability, an underground market of services artificially inflating page likes, aka like farms, has emerged alongside Facebook's official targeted advertising platform. Nonetheless, there is little work that systematically analyzes Facebook pages' promotion methods. Aiming to fill this gap, we present a honeypot-based comparative measurement study of page likes garnered via Facebook advertising and from popular like farms. First, we analyze likes based on demographic, temporal, and social characteristics, and find that some farms seem to be operated by bots and do not really try to hide the nature of their operations, while others follow a stealthier approach, mimicking regular users' behavior. Next, we look at fraud detection algorithms currently deployed by Facebook and show that they do not work well to detect stealthy farms which spread likes over longer timespans and like popular pages to mimic regular users. To overcome their limitations, we investigate the feasibility of timeline-based detection of like farm accounts, focusing on characterizing content generated by Facebook accounts on their timelines as an indicator of genuine versus fake social activity. We analyze a range of features, grouped into two main categories: lexical and non-lexical. We find that like farm accounts tend to re-share content, use fewer words and poorer vocabulary, and more often generate duplicate comments and likes compared to normal users. Using relevant lexical and non-lexical features, we build a classifier to detect like farms accounts that achieves precision higher than 99% and 93% recall.

Type: Article
Title: Measuring, Characterizing, and Detecting Facebook Like Farms
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1145/3121134
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1561329
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