The boom of social media, video, or streaming platforms have given birth to a novel business type: click farm, where thousands of smart devices support the attractiveness of online influencers. Unfortunately, its rapid growth is seemingly out of control.
Online influencers, streamers, YouTubers, and more online jobs tend to be familiar these days as young generations build their own career on online sharing platforms with a steady income.
The fact is that, not all impressions, likes, shares, or comments linked with such content came from real users. Coming from thousands of smart devices, set up in the click farms, those are commonly known as support services, offering automated click from bots or spam.
According to Martech Advisor, click farms were responsible for around 60 per cent of click injection and 30 per cent of click spam globally. It has caused a massive social loss of about 20 per cent of a company’s advertising budget, wasted to digital fraud. Evidently, the total loss from the globe can reach US$90 billion by 2022.
Click farms and its destructive effect on society
The click farms model is dubbed as the dark side of the internet as it harms the health of social development. Accordingly, advertisers, customers, and organisations are the three main victims.
From the ads market context, fake clicks lead to ad fraud as fake engagements cannot transfer to customers, which means no return on investment.
Click farms generated over 35 per cent of digital ad fraud globally. The TrafficGuard reported that the total loss of advertisers in the Asia Pacific due to ad fraud is predicted to reach US$55 billion by 2022.
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Besides, the market for fake internet traffic schemes has been blamed for being a source of organised crime, which is currently out of control. Evidently, fake traffics is accounted for 10 per cent of the total traffic generated in the digital ad market.
Additionally, apart from ads, organic web traffic also suffers from non-human actors, which lead to dirty competition among players.
From the customer context, they tend to easily trust contents that have a lot of views, positive reviews, or viral. However, the majorities of those indicators are likely fake.
According to Interceptd, finance shopping, gaming, and social are the most vulnerable category, affected by the operated of click farms. In which those customers are deceived by fake content.
Lack of law and regulation
In 2020, as COVID-19 accelerated the development of online activities, click farms tend to be cashing in, in many developing countries with relatively low incomes. The growing software development in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, China, or Bangladesh are claimed to be promising sources for this type of business.
In China, the model of click farms is spreading as a billion-dollar industry, with rapidly growing numbers of farms in cities. According to China’s central television (CCTV), around 90 per cent of television audiences are fake, which troubles the advertising industry. Online advertisers’ money was seemingly stolen from bots and automated clicks.
Obviously, real human clicks are more costly than using click farms. Evidently, it charged roundly US$0.05 to US$1.1 for 1,000 fake views. Beyond views, click farms are also to blamed for the rise of fake social accounts globally. Some professionals from Indiana University believed that it includes over 15 per cent of Twitter accounts.
In Vietnam, several click farms are promoted publicly on social networks, albeit illegally. Last month, a Facebook user posted photos recording his upcoming click farm, which was prepared for launching. In which hundreds of smartphones are connected to a server, ready to deliver services.
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Indeed, click farms are illegal, but most countries have not imposed the appropriate law, directly controlling the click farms business. China authorities currently applied anti-unfair competitions in judging those activities. Other countries are leveraging labour low, which inculpates those businesses violating employee rights related to workplace conditions.
At present, thousands of click farms are still active, that authorities are showing helpless in manage or closures them.
How enterprises react to click farms
The rise of internet fraud gives birth to a brand new business, which nurtures the market of ad fraud detection services. This market is rapidly growing based on the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
In terms of fraud and spam detections, most organisations are leveraging machine learning to reduce the loss. In the global market, machine learning is believed to be able to save US$10 billion from ad fraud loss by 2022.
Besides, the numbers for the Asia Pacific is predicted to be US$4 billion in which Facebook and Google are the two market leaders, which applied effectively in its ad sense.
Additionally, AI-based advertising platform is seen to have a significant role in combating fraud activities from click farms. Accordingly, by 2022, there will be over 70 per cent platform emerged AI in distributing ads. AI would be used in detecting suspicious behaviours and IP filters from the operation of click farms.
Apart from that, many experts believed in the dominant of blockchain in the upcoming years, which would add more transparency to the click industry. With the support of accurate data, advertisers could custom their ads contextually toward real customers.
Final thought: click farms or any other rogue business are eroding the reliability of the internet. While waiting for regulators to come up with effective solutions, we need to be alert to these types of fraud.
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