An announcement was made on Friday by Facebook indicating that the company had discovered and destroyed a network of fake accounts that have been rising on the site over the last six months. The social media giant revealed that tremendous damage had been caused by the purge. USA Today’s Facebook page was greatly affected by the purge.
The announcement revealed that 99 percent of follower counts in large publisher pages could be brought down by less than three percent. USA Today appears to be the worst victim of the purge. Reports indicate that by the end of Friday, the newspaper had already lost five million followers from its primary Facebook page.
Facebook said in a statement that the intent of the campaign was to deceptively gain new friend connections by liking and interacting primarily with popular publisher Pages on Facebook after which the spam would be sent.
The social media giant also indicated that it observed that the bulk of these accounts became dormant after liking a number of Pages, indicating that they had not been mobilized for any other reason but to actually make connections and send spam to the targeted people.
CrowdTangle released data that revealed that USA Today had 15.2 million likes Thursday but the number dropped by 32.38 % to 10.2 million. Thousands of followers were disappearing at a staggering rate from USA Today’s page. Unfortunately, no other major publisher appears to have experienced the same drop.
News outlets such as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Daily Caller, Fox News, and CNN all lost followers after Facebook’s announcement. However, the drop was less than three percent.
Maribel Wadsworth, who is the chief transformation officer, USA Today Network, and Gannett, said in the statement that USA Today Network took great pride in its journalism and the trust its consumers and advertising partners have in the news outlet.
Wadsworth also indicated that the outlet had been in close communication with Facebook since presenting the issue to them and that it looks forward to a swift solution that prevents this illegitimate activity from happening on its Facebook page in the future.
USA Today has experienced tremendous growth on Facebook in the last six months something that is an anomaly in the industry. It more than doubled the nearly 6 million followers it had in back September.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post each added less than 2 million followers in the same time frame.
Facebook makes it possible for publishers to advertise for likes on Facebook. However, the social media company said that none of the likes being purged was as a result of paid ads. Jamie Mottram, who is the head of social media content and strategy for USA Today tweeted in January bragging that his outlet was the fastest-growing FB page in news. The announcement indicates that fake page likes can potentially be used to make businesses and also boost rankings on search engines. However, Facebook has taken stern action to curb spammers.