If you live on social media networks, or if you write a blog, or manage a Facebook page, you’ve certainly seen a rise in efforts to game the networks for profit.  Way back on September 11, 2006, I predicted right here on this blog that people would begin to use Avatars — their online identity — to make money by selling their craven image to the highest bidder:

What’s to stop active — or better yet, INactive — blog commenters from getting hired by companies to change their Avatar to promote a website or a phone number or some other advertising blitz? Can you imagine being a new beer company and going out and finding the top 1,000 blog commenters and having them all change their Avatars to the logo for your beer?

Why it’s sheer viral genius! You could buy hundreds of thousands of page views on the cheap that could reach for years back into the history of Avatar-enabled blog pages on thousands of blogs — and the beauty part is this: No one would be the wiser.

The Search Engines already indexed and tagged the old content as safe and sufficient and your Avatar Ads would be silently served up when a search return is clicked through to the blog. The Blogmaster would never know — especially if you were not posting recent comments.

Unfortunately today, that prediction has come true on many of the social networks.  On WordPress.com these Gravatar adverts use the LIKE system to push their Spammy images and links.   There’s currently no way to stop people from LIKE-ing your articles unless you just turn off the feature.  LIKEs are strange because they do not count toward your readership or hits.  People don’t have to click-through to read your article to LIKE your articles.  People don’t even have to be on your blog to put a LIKE on your article — they can do it all from the WP.com Reader.

LIKEs are not sifted through Akismet for Spam checking like comments posted on articles, so there’s a huge incentive to set up Spammy Gravatar identities that then link to sales sites.  Nefarious people then get on the WP.com network and start LIKE-ing up a storm to scheme to sell you junk.

Intrepid blog owners who take the time to click on a Gravatar identity can report the Spam account to Automattic, but that takes a lot of time and processing power from you daily duties.  Bad people don’t have to own a WordPress.com blog to LIKE an article.  They only need to have a free WP.com account.

I’m sure there will eventually be some sort of Akismet-like filter to block these Spammer LIKEs, but until that happens, bloggers beware!  There’s no way to remove a LIKE on an article without turning off all LIKEs for that article, or for your entire blog. Publishers love honest LIKEs because it helps build a community of minds.

How many times have you seen someone on Facebook post a link to an image, and for you to see the rest of the image or story, you have to click on the image and then LIKE something in exchange for actually viewing the content?

That, too, is annoying Spam behavior and Facebook needs to find a way to disincentive LIKE abuse.  Sure, LIKEs on proper content have great meaning and weight on the network, but when LIKEs become monetized and gamed behavior, the entire fabric of social goodwill begins to fray in the threads of commerce.

How do you handle endless requests to LIKE Facebook content that clearly isn’t personal?  Will you LIKE on the promise of a false thrill?  Or do you refuse to click-to-LIKE?

How do you feel about LIKEs on WordPress.com? Do you have them turned on for your blog? Have you seen the commercialization of your LIKE Avatars in a craven image or in Gravatar links?


  1. Genuine likes are good ……………… spammy likes – waste of my time as I always click back to see if I can reciprocate a like and my time is precious .

    1. Yes, it’s hard to know if something is truly Spammy or not unless you click to find out. It does take a lot of time to check, and then once you find out it is Spam — there isn’t much you can do about it.

          1. it plays right into the hands of the resonable and polite blogger who tries build the right kind of networks ………………….

  2. When I get a like I always try to see if the liker has a blog and if so if their interests make their like make sense. I’m not looking forward to the rise of spam likes.

      1. As far as I know I haven’t gotten any yet — yet! I think I’d have to contact WordPress and ask them what to do about it.

  3. Nicola —

    You’re right that the good people get punished. The only way to prevent this sort of unmitigated Spamming is to just turn off LIKEs entirely. That, too, punishes the good and emboldens the guilty.

  4. I know that is probably the unpalatable answer ………….. it is a pity to have to resort to doing that.

    1. I do wonder if LIKE Spam is why WP.com started hiding all the LIKES under a separate “click-to-view” — because then we still get the LIKE credit counted, but unless someone is obsessive about who is viewing what, all the LIKE Gravatars won’t load.

  5. UPDATE:

    I just removed the LIKEs from this blog! Half of the LIKEs on this article alone were Spammy.

    This blog loads so much faster now without having to find, log and load all those LIKE Gravatars!

  6. I wrote about something like this back in August. At the time I only had about 20 followers and very low readership, I was so excited to sign in to WP one day and see that little star glowing… I was totally ecstatic when i saw someone liked ALL of my posts I had had written! Well, of course I had to find out who it was….Of course I was disappointed to find that though it wasn’t spam it was someone with a very vile view of women. It bothers me that that persons gravitar is still on my blog and someone might actually click on it. Uggghhhh.

    I always try to reciprocate likes, I think it is a great way to find new blogs and make connections with people and it is highly annoying when it is only spam, I feel so cheated. But that hasn’t happened much lately – perhaps only once this year so far. I guess if I had a more active blog it would happen more often. All we can do is ignore it I guess.

    On another note; one day out of nowhere I had about 62 views from India alone. In all my blogging time I think I may have had one view from India ever. I found it odd so many in one day. Any idea what that could be about? i thought it might have something to do with a spamming network of some kind – I didn’t have any likes, just all those views.

    1. I’m not sure if LIKEs really up the interaction with a blog or not. They’re more of a wave across the street than the decision to stop and have a conversation. You can LIKE something without having to ever say why — or even read what you say you like.

      Sometimes, an article gets a spike because someone forwarded it to Reddit or it became indexed in a popular website or a research hub. What was the topic of the article?

      1. I’m not sure what the article was. I was digging around in my stats to see, but couldn’t pin point it. I think it was on one of my pages. It could have been the “Indian Inspired Collage’ I did, but I can’t imagine that anyone could have found that, especially so many in one day. My blog is pretty low on the spectrum of blogs – almost non existent I’m sure. Oh well, no matter.

        But I do think likes do help with interaction. i always go to see who liked me and I also get a few likes when I visit and like other blogs. I always feel l should leave a comment though because I want people to know I am sincere in my like and not just trying to get them to look at my blog. Jeesh…so much stress. 🙂

        1. There must have been a keyword or a tag on that page that generated so much interest. It happens! There’s an article Gordon wrote that, every semester, generates hundreds of hits a day for a week and then it quiets down again. We figured out some professor somewhere was referencing his article in class and the entire class was hitting the article almost simultaneously.

          When you click to see who is visiting you, you are playing right into the Spammer’s hands! They are relying on the kindness of your reciprocal click-back — curiosity paid the Spammer! SMILE!

          This all may not be an issue for you yet — but I bet it soon will be. People in the WP.com support forum are loudly complaining about the Gravatar LIKE Spam — there’s a link to the conversation in my article.

          1. Thanks, I’ll read it. Funny about your professor story – I imagined a school room of kids in India all clicking on my post that day. Funny

  7. twistnpout —

    I’m pretty sure it was something like that — a big group of people who are all clicking the same link at the same time. It’s neat when it happens! SMILE!

  8. I don’t blame you for removing them from here– I imagine the one-two punch of receiving a like and then realizing the unfortunate source can get old fast.

    It’s a shame that such a neat system can have such large areas for misuse. I don’t bother liking Facebook pages anymore because you never really know what you’re getting yourself into!

    1. You’re right abou the disappointment, Emily. A lot of the LIKEs look legit, but when you click, you’re caught in some money pit scheme. It’s better to just turn it off than to have to deal with it all day.

      Facebook has so much promise, but it all feels muddled and confused to me. There’s no real clear path to getting done what needs to be done.

      1. A lot of Facebook’s power ends up squandered on pages that prey on people for quick likes… The “1 like = 1 prayer” meme comes to mind.

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