A like on Facebook is like a vote for something on Facebook. You can like books, fan pages, people, apps, websites and a lot of other things on the site. Liking is something that Facebook users do actively. They need to click on the like button either on Facebook or a third party website to do that. That at least is how most Facebook users imagine how the feature works.
It now came to light that posting a link on Facebook, but not liking it, may increase the likes of that link. So, talking about a page may increase the likes of that page. The problem that arises should be clear: how can Facebook distinguish between praise and flame, between positive and negative comments about a link. Imagine pointing out that one of the president candidates made a blunder and finding out later on that you liked that president's Facebook page.
Gizmodo managed to get a statement from Facebook regarding the issue. A Facebook spokesperson states in it that the number of shares on the social plugin for a website increases when a person shares an url to Facebook. This does not affect urls shared through private messages, only publicly shared urls.This only affects social plugins and not the like count of Facebook Pages.
According to Facebook, the like button reflects user engagement and not the total number of users who liked a certain web address. The problem here nevertheless is that Facebook users may get associated with websites that they do not want to be associated with. If you keep in mind that sharing an url on Facebook is identical to liking it, you'd better be careful what you share on the site.
The story broke on Hacker News where a YouTube video link was posted claiming that this method can be used to increase the like count by 1800 per hour. The YouTube video has been removed in the meantime though.
The main question for me is whether this engagement is visible somewhere on a Facebook user's page. The link obviously has to be posted there, but is the like reflected there as well somehow and publicly accessible? Or is this just increasing the engagement counter by one but not associating a like with the user who shared the url on Facebook?
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