Facebook Clarifies Reports Of Rising Like Totals Due To Links In Private Messages

By David Cohen 

Facebook giveth, and Facebook taketh away: Just one week after pages’ like totals began dropping due to the social network’s purge of fake profiles and likes, reports surfaced of like totals increasing due to links sent in private messages, and not to users actually liking pages. Facebook responded that it was working to fix a bug in its social plugins, and that the totals being impacted were actually on counters that measure likes and shares.

Here’s what happened, as reported by The Next Web: Polish startup Killswitch.me posted a since-deleted YouTube video on Hacker News (the video is still available via Vimeo and embedded below) that showed how sending a private Facebook message containing a link to a page increased the counter on that page by two likes.

The Next Web pointed out that the like button entry on the Facebook Developers page states that the number shown on like buttons on outside websites is a total of likes of that URL, shares of that URL, likes and comments on Facebook stories about that URL, and inbox messages containing that URL as an attachment.

And Facebook responded with the following statement:

We did recently find a bug with our social plugins where at times the count for the share or like goes up by two, and we are working on fix to solve the issue now. To be clear, this only affects social plugins off of Facebook and is not related to Facebook page likes. This bug does not impact the user experience with messages or what appears on their timelines.

Absolutely no private information has been exposed, and Facebook is not automatically liking any Facebook pages on a user’s behalf.

Many websites that use Facebook’s like, recommend, or share buttons also carry a counter next to them. This counter reflects the number of times people have clicked those buttons, and also the number of times people have shared that page’s link on Facebook. When the count is increased via shares over private messages, no user information is exchanged, and privacy settings of content are unaffected. Links shared through messages do not affect the like count on Facebook pages.

Readers: Are you satisfied with Facebook’s explanation?

Facebook Graph API hack discovered by Killswitch.me team and Sejwa.com from Kuba on Vimeo.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.