Facebook Astro-Turfing, Bot-Monster. Help us uncover it?
December 26, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Facebook Astro-Turfing, Bot-Monster. Help us uncover it?

Hi - I'm involved in a grassroots organization that is challenging one of the largest corporations in the world. We've got some real momentum and now, in response, they've set up what we believe is a bot-driven facebook page to showcase their "support."

Based on some very limited evidence, we believe that many of their likes are from bots, but it would be really powerful to be able to demonstrate that in a way that is possible to document. Obviously the challenge is that I'm not the admin of this page. When I click on the "likes" button of their page, I can see the number of likes, and a little bit of historical information (trends in number of likes), but not much else. The company mainly operates in the US, so if we we could show, for example, that the likes were coming from outside the US, that would be helpful.

Really appreciate any advice. Thank you.
posted by stewieandthedude to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you see who is "liking" their page? If so, if you notice that those people have very little activity other than liking random pages, that might indicate they are bots.
posted by MiG at 4:26 PM on December 26, 2012

Response by poster: Ya, I can't see who is liking their page, unfortunately. I know you can't on some pages, but on this one, I can't. thanks again for any help.
posted by stewieandthedude at 4:31 PM on December 26, 2012

Best answer: Some ways of doing this:

Look for patterns in the growth of likes: It wouldn't be too hard to write a script which downloaded the total number of likes to the page every x minutes. Run it for a week, and you might be able to show that the average distribution of likes over a week is suspicious. E.g. more likes between 2am and 3am than between 1pm and 2pm, the same number of likes added for each time increment, big spikes at the same time every day, most likes added in the first 10 minutes every hour, etc.

I would also try to track any references to the facebook page (google Alert and Trends at least) and the rate of comments and activity on the page itself, but this would mostly be supportive information to suspicious patterns in the number of likes. (It would be strange if 1000s of likes were added without any comments on the page itself)

Also, look for "pages that links to this page" with google - if there are no links to the page, how are the Likes supposed to be added? And if there are links to it, are they at obviously strange pages, like lots of random Russian web sites?
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 4:50 PM on December 26, 2012

Best answer: The data you want exists, but it's proprietary to the page owner. If you were the page owner you could access Facebook Insights data which includes a lot of information on Fan Demographics. This would tell you the countries where the likes originated.

Do you have any programming ability? You could query the Facebook API to get a really granular graph of fan count. Most tools will check once every 24 hours, but if you checked every 1-5 minutes you might catch some really suspicious spikes.

Don't worry if there are no links to the page from Google. Maybe they're promoting the page on Facebook, which Google wouldn't be able to tell you.
posted by reeddavid at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, reeddavid. I don't have programming experience, but could probably find someone on my team who does.
posted by stewieandthedude at 7:29 PM on December 26, 2012

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