SAN JOSE, CA -- Celebrities, businesses and even the State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from techies who run offshore "click farms," where they tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to artificially inflate social media numbers.
An Associated Press examination has found a growing global marketplace for fake clicks, by the billions, which tech companies struggle to police. Online records, industry studies and interviews show companies around the world are capitalizing on the opportunity to make millions of dollars by gaming the whole concept behind social media.
In cities including Jakarta, Indonesia, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, the AP found workers who click for cash. Hundreds of websites now market the clicks, which sell for as little as half a cent each.