Imagine you’re scrolling along, scanning your newsfeed in Facebook and willy nilly liking things you see—not liking as in thinking, “Oh, I like that,” but liking as in clicking the “Like” button. That seems like a harmless activity, right? And it should be.
But it’s not.
As with most things in this world, Facebook “Likes” have been turned into a tool for nefarious behavior.
Called like-farming, it’s activity not allowed on Facebook but it happens anyway.
Like-farming on Facebook
The goal of a so-called like-farmer is to get likes. Farming is a good word for the activity: These people essentially start Facebook pages, “plant” content, and “grow” the numbers of likes—then “harvest” that information.
Think pictures of adorable kittens, or the photos of children with captions such as, “How many likes can she get?” These are the kinds of posts designed for one purpose: to get likes.
As people click on the Like button, these “planted” posts grow in popularity and therefore show up in even more newsfeeds—because Facebook is based on giving you more of what you seem to like, quite literally.
This all sounds harmless but it doesn’t stop there. According to the Consumer Affairs website, the next steps are the harmful ones:
“…once the page has a sufficiently high popularity rating, the like-farmer either removes the page’s original content and replaces it with something else (usually malware or scam advertising); leaves the page as is and uses it as a platform for continued like-farming in order to spread malware, collect people’s marketing information or engage in other harmful activities; or outright sells the highly liked site to cybercriminals in a black market web forum.”
Whoa. We’re not talking about kittens or cute kids any longer, are we!
Ways to protect yourself from like-farming on Facebook
Although the emotional posts are the ones we’re used to seeing as Facebook users, there are other tricks like farmers use, like fake contests or fake charity donations or posts that ask you to like if you’re also a (fill in the blank). An article at That’s Nonsense lists all kinds of ways like farmers trick people into liking and sharing posts. We highly recommend you read it.
That said, it’s easy to protect yourself from like-farming. We’ll start with the obvious: Don’t click on the Like button for everything you see. You can mentally appreciate a post without physically telling the world that you like it. You can also keep yourself safe with these tips if you want to keep clicking “Like” without worry:
- Be suspicious. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Err on the side of caution.
- If a post says you have to like, share and/or comment to take part in a contest, don’t.
- Don’t be guilted into liking, sharing or commenting. You know those posts that say most people won’t copy/paste/share? That’s using guilt to get you to participate. Pass those posts by.
- Be especially cautious about liking posts that are deliberately meant to pull at your heart strings. Like-farmers have no integrity. They will use a picture of a child with Down syndrome, a wounded warrior or an abused animal to their advantage. They will encourage you to click “Like” if you hate cancer, or type “Amen” if you love Jesus. You get the idea.
- Also, any post that is out there to see how many likes it can get, from supposed photo contests to school experiments, should be avoided.
- For more information, check out the tips on spotting like-farming posts here.
Lest you think it’s not such a big deal if you click on a dubious post, keep in mind that you are taking part in a scam when you do so, and encouraging others to follow suit. If your Facebook friends see that you’ve liked something, they might do the same. Should there be negative consequences to that, when the like-farmer gets to the “harvest” step, you’ll be the one that put their information at risk. Don’t be that guy.
And don’t like everything on Facebook either.