STUDY: Facebook Has 100X More Spam Than Other Social Networks, 4X More Phishing Attacks

By David Cohen 

SpamSpamSpamSpam has been an issue for as long as email has existed, and a new report by social media security and compliance company Nexgate sheds light on just how prominent spam has become within Facebook and other social networks, saying that social spam exploded by 355 percent during the first half of 2013, and sharing some particularly alarming statistics regarding Facebook.

Nexgate studied more than 60 million unique pieces of content from more than 25 million accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn between 2011 and 2013, and its other findings included:

  • Facebook and YouTube blew away the other social networks in terms of spam content, by a ratio of 100-to-1.
  • Facebook contained more than four times the phishing attacks of other social networks.
  • More spammers are found on Facebook and YouTube than on any other social networks.
  • For every piece of risky content (profanity, threats, hate speech, insults) on other social networks, there were five pieces of risky content on YouTube.
  • Fake profiles post more content more quickly than authentic accounts.
  • 5 percent of social media applications are spammy.
  • 20 percent of spammy apps were found on brand-owned social media accounts.
  • Spammers often spam to at least 23 different social media accounts.
  • For every seven new social media accounts, five new spammers are detected.
  • 15 percent of social spam contains URLs, which usually lead to spammy content, pornography, or malware.
  • The rate of spam on branded social media accounts is growing more quickly than the rate of comments.
  • One out of every 200 social media messages contains spam.

Nexgate said in introducing its report:

The impact of social media spam is already significant: It can damage brand appearance and turn fans and followers into foes. To make matters worse, a spammy social message isn’t just seen by one recipient, but by potentially all of the brand’s followers and all of the recipients’ friends. Social spam transforms one of the greatest assets of social media marketing — its multidimensional nature — against the brand.

As social media spam has increased, so, too, have the different types and mechanisms of its distribution across Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, Twitter, and other social networks. Link- and text-based spam has evolved to adapt to the social medium. Link spam takes the form of just the URL with no surrounding text, prompting a curious and unsuspecting user to click on the link to the spammer’s website. Text spam includes phishing attacks that often ask for personal information or money, and “chain letters,” which may make a threat or sympathetic plea prompting the user to circulate the spam.

Social media has also led to new methods of delivering spam, such as spammy apps, so-called like-jacking, social bots, and fake accounts. Spammy apps offer to perform special tasks outside of social media networks’ original features. With like-jacking, instead of clicking on malicious links, victims may be tricked into clicking on images that appear as likes or other seemingly harmless buttons. Social bots and fake accounts are used to infiltrate the victim’s social media world. Together, these new attack methods can significantly detract from a brand’s social media presence and their social marketing return on investment.

Nexgate provided some common examples of spam in the screenshots below.

Readers: Have you seen more spam on Facebook and other social networks?

NexgateLinkSpam NexgateTextSpamNexgateTextSpam2NexgateTextSpam3NexgateSpammyAppsNexgateLikeJacking

“Spam spam spam” image courtesy of Shutterstock.