Sunday, September 13, 2015

How much would you pay for a verified page?

An odd thing happened to me this week. All of a sudden, out of the blue, I started getting a ton of likes on my Facebook page.

I'm not the sort of writer (yet!) whose fans are racing to sign up for my Facebook page. Oh, I get a few new fans every now and then -- and I love each and every one of you! Have I mentioned that recently?

Anyway, the point is that my page typically doesn't attract likes in droves. The only time I get a lot of action is when I participate in a like-fest, either at Indies Unlimited (where we run them pretty regularly) or some other group where participants agree to like each other's pages. When that happens, I can tell where the likes are coming from, because I recognize the names.

But this week, I got a whole bunch of new likes -- all from India and Pakistan, as near as I could tell, and none of them were names I recognized. I wondered what was going on. I know I haven't sold enough books there to account for that much attention.

Then I started getting messages from people I'd never heard of: "Hey i am ur fan...plz help me...I Want To Be A Editor on yr Page...I will xchange for thousands of likes!!!" Stuff like that.

At that point, it all came clear. These people weren't fans at all. They'd likely never heard of me. What they wanted was my verified page.

See, Facebook doesn't give that little blue checkmark out to everybody -- only to people with pages whose identities they have verified. And even then, you have to be an American. And even then, not everybody gets one. (Frankly, I have no idea why they gave me one. I suspect they looked at my LinkedIn profile and saw I'd worked at CNN and Mutual/NBC Radio News once upon a time.)

So my guess is that some folks on the other side of the world have hit on a brilliant (to them) idea: Contact the admins of verified pages and pester them for access to the back end. Everybody wants likes, right? So offer hundreds of fake likes in exchange for that access. No, thousands! A million!

One guy claimed he was trying to set up a verified page for Kristen Stewart -- who, as an American and an honest-to-goodness celebrity, wouldn't need to hire some guy in Pakistan to do it for her. Another guy asked me to apply for a verified page for him. I tried to explain why that wouldn't work -- Facebook would need to verify his identity, not mine, and I'm not going to submit a fake ID with a US address on his behalf. I think that's when he offered me the million likes.

As entertaining as all of this is -- and it is -- it's also kind of...hmm. Worse than surprising, but not quite all the way to horrifying. Let's call it "causes concern." Because if someone asks you to break the rules to get into the back end of your page, it's pretty much guaranteed that they're not going to play nice with it once they have access. Here's what an editor can do on a Facebook page:
Can edit the Page, send messages and publish as the Page, create ads, see which admin created a post or comment, and view insights.
In other words, if I'd let that guy in, he could have changed stuff on my page, spammed it with his crap, created spammy ads and had Facebook charge me for them, and on and on. And who would Facebook come after? Not Editor Boy, that's for sure.

So far, "Go away or I'll report you to Facebook" has been working pretty well as a deterrent. I hope I don't have to get to the point of blocking whole countries from liking my page. Some day I might have actual fans there.

These moments of bloggy concern have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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