A recent report on an internet “click farm” in China is drawing attention to a broader question. Exactly how much of the technological and economic systems that support us is based on “reality”?
It’s no secret that a certain percentage of social media “impressions” are fake. At the very least, it often represents a very superficial form of engagement. However, seeing a click farm up close and in pictures peels back a layer to reveal inner workings many participants don’t enjoy seeing.
The Click Farm: Tens of Thousands of Smartphones on Racks
According to this report, an unnamed Russian posted footage of a China-based click farm that consisted literally of racks of individual smartphones. Fooling any algorithm that would detect an individual IP address or device ID, the farm’s operators could conjure up tens of thousands of unique “likes”, reviews, or star ratings. For a price, of course.
For a price of course. From multi-million dollar click farms like this to accounts offering thousands of Twitter followers for $5 on Fiverr.com, there’s money in fake traffic.
Even the results aren’t real — it’s just a matter of how many money-providers you can fool into paying before someone looks for real value.
The following 2014 video, which has almost 4.8 million views (supposedly!) detailed how Facebook popularity does not always result in actual engagement or sales.
Not a New Phenomenon… But Is It A Growing One?
None of this is new, and cynics might point to past elections and Top 40 song lists to show it’s been part of life for a long time. But with technological advances, is fakery becoming more common as it becomes easier? Are we now addicted to it, forever looking for new ways to game the system?
Ultimately, what percentage of our livelihoods and security is build on little or no foundation at all?
The popular media, websites, celebrities, leaders, music — how many devoted fans do they really have? Even of those who are genuine humans, how many are simply following an artificially-inflated herd?
Don’t Even Look at the Financial System
Then there’s financial systems large and small, including the one this site reports on.
We’ve heard constant accusations that cryptocurrency exchanges inflate volumes by trading back and forth with in-house algorithms. Some are just to boost traffic, others may even manipulate prices.
Yet these companies are just a microcosm of the overall financial system, and their activities would not (yet) bring down national economies. But what of central bank-owned assets, esoteric derivatives, national currencies?
The fiat money the majority of us use for most purchases is backed by nothing other than faith in it. That faith often falters, as we’ve watched in Zimbabwe and Latin America for decades.
We saw in the 1980s Soviet Union, 2000’s dot-com bust and the more recent global financial crisis — what happens when confidence goes searching for real underlying value and finds none. Like Wile E. Coyote chasing the roadrunner, economic systems can run a long way off a cliff before realizing there’s nothing holding them up. Then they fall.
Once we accept empty fakery into our culture, it’s difficult to remove it voluntarily. Eventually, though, reality steps in to decide for us.
Is the world addicted to fakery? Is it a problem? Let’s hear your views.
Images via Pixabay