According to a team of Italian security researchers, spammers who post third-party links on Facebook earn an estimated total of $200 million a year.
Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli led the team, which analyzed pages on Facebook and looked for text such as "Hey click here for a free iPhone" and links to third-party sites.
Spammers also set up fake fan pages to trick Facebook users to click on the links. One fake fan page even exploited the Boston Marathon Bombing, noted The Guardian.
This practice is officially banned by Facebook, but the popular social media site has a hard time getting rid of the spammers, who can just return under a different username.
The study found 20 web sites where spammers go to make deals to post spam links on Facebook in return for money.
"Third parties pay spammers to post their links on Facebook pages, to reach the largest amount of users possible. For the financial model to work, the third parties must be accruing benefits even greater than they are paying the spammers, though it is impossible to know what their rate of return might be," De Micheli told The Guardian.
"We notice that it is rather common for the landing page [from a link] to be a product on an e-commerce site made to monetize quickly rather than to generate traffic on a home page. Links to YouTube can be used to generate views, and so money generation on YouTube is a fast-growing market."
Source: The Guardian