Three arrested for running clickfarm of 347200 SIM Cards and 474 iPhones
Its common knowledge that a significant amount of internet traffic comes via bots. Artificial accounts and bots are used to boost up traffic artificially for services and inflate likes and view counts on numerous social media platforms. When the Thailand police raided a house situated close to its Cambodian border, the world got a little glimpse into the mysterious world.
The police unearthed a fake click racket that was being run by Wang Dong, Niu Bang, and Ni Wenjin this past sunday. The 3 individuals were arrested by the Thai police on charges of working without a permit and smuggling SIM cards into the country. The setup that they discovered included 500 smartphones, 350,00 SIM cards, 21 SIM card readers, and nine computers that were being used in the operation.
Initially though, the police didn’t suspect a fake click farm, rather, they suspected the operation to be a fraudulent call center – a very common scam in the country. Later the trio spilled the beans that they were actually running a network of so-called sock puppet accounts on China’s largest social network, WeChat. The men were reported paid around 150,000 baht ($4403) by a company based in China for the operation. The operation was said to be based in Thailand owing to the country’s smartphone usage charges being relatively lower.
Another reason for the scam could be the increasing level of difficulty in gaining bulk of SIM cards in the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government have recently begun asking users to provide identification before registering a SIM card. Thailand also has similar requirement however, therefore, the source of the huge number of SIM cards will remain uncertain until the authorities reveal more information.
The Zombie Fan Problem
The setup though surprising to us, is much more common than one would think with reports of several such farms across the country of China. Talking about WeChat in particular, it is very hard to identify how much of a problem such fake clicks are since the company is very private in its dealings. Created in 2010, the platform is designed for small groups of people to message each other – similar to WhatsApp – and boats of 880 million monthly active users.
The reason behind the fake clicks being a problem is less to do with the company and more with the design of the application. The chat groups in the app are visible only to individuals who have been invited to it, thus making it extremely hard for anyone to verify such zombie fans with credible evidence. That doesn’t mean the problem is being blown out of proportion however. A 2015 investigation conducted by The Bejinger showed it’s startlingly easy and inexpensive to manipulate likes and views on the messaging platform.
However,charges related to working in Thailand illegally can come with a sentence of up to five years in prison and the culprits are also expected to pay a fine before being deported to China . Neither WeChat nor its parent company Tencent have made any public statements regarding this story as of this moment.