The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 edition (Public Domain)

The Goose with the Golden Likes

«Once upon a time, there was a Facebook Page. This page was “Liked” by 580,000 people and this made it the 14th most popular Greek FB page in the whole world! The only problem, however, was that most of those who had Liked it, did not know they had.

Let’s start from the beginning! This page belonged to a website that republished entertaining articles from other Greek websites, while making money from the plethora of ads it displayed. Of course, there’s no point in discussing whether copying these texts and photos was approved by the original creator. The violation of intellectual property rights was, unfortunately, quite popular in the Greek “social-blog-o-sphere”.

But you see, this website was not that different from the other websites it took its materials from. It was just an aggregation of “catchy” articles with a mishmash of advertisements on the side. So, how could it stand out and shine in comparison to the rest? How could it gather the precious readers that would bring money from the countless views? And that’s when it found the “goose“!

The goose presented itself in the form of jQuery source code, which was placed on the website and displayed a message that covered the entire browser window:

Of course, the truth is that many other websites also used a goose to get the attention of their readers. But the goose of this specific website was “special” because, even if you pressed the X at the top-right corner, you would still Like the page, like-it-or-not.

This technique is a form of “Clickjacking“, which is a way for the page to get your coveted click even “by force“, without you realising. Unfortunately, this was a typical practice for those who made a living from Like/Click farming, so all of those users around the world who made money from the ads and the clicks on their blogs – or even by selling their pages when they had gathered enough members.

Was it ethical? Definitely not. Was it legal? Unfortunately it wasn’t “illegal”. There was no clear legal framework that covered clickjacking and, since there was no immediate profiting from the Likes (until the page was sold), it did not constitute an offence. When the pages ended up getting sold, it was too late for them to be “caught in the act” since no one could prove at that point where all those countless clicks had come from.

And that’s how our page continued, with 50,000 new Likes every month, many of which were “blind”, surpassing even the pages of popular Greek pop stars like Sakis Rouvas (460k), Natasa Theodoridou (525k), Elena Paparizou (550k), and (in a few days) the well-established brand name of Amita Motion (589k). And all of this from a website with articles that they didn’t even write themselves, nor checked whether they were true or authentic; they just copied them… In other words: they were either doing something really good, or really bad!.. Cough… cough… cough…»

– Don’t stop now old man! Tell us, what happened next??

«Ahh, my children. Alright.. I’ll finish the story… At some point the page started reaching “critical mass”; in other words it was ready to explode! The owner of the goose that brought him the golden Likes was worried that Facebook would figure out how he collected them and would shut it down. So, one day, he made the tough decision to sell all his golden eggs in the market, as before.

So, he went there and started announcing his wares: “Cooome and buyy myy goooldeen eeggss, it’s a uniiiquee opportuuuniityy, coomee and I will whisper to youu how much (expensive) they aare”. But the crowd was not interested because they knew that what the merchant was selling was not gold nuggets from an unreachable mine, but golden eggs of a goose that they could clone. So, after they found a sample of the DNA of this “special” goose (don’t bother), they also started putting it on their websites to lay golden Likes, and soon Facebook woke up and blocked this idiotic practice, forcing them to go and find another way to deceive people. The End.»

– That wasn’t a very happy ending old man.

«Too bad.»

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 edition (Public Domain)

PS: Jokes aside – Hey Facebook, maybe you should consider adding a confirmation message to your Like Boxes, but make sure it’s something that can’t be suppressed (e.g. taking users to to “Like” it there).