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To Facebook, a shared link is as good as a Like

The company's social plug-ins automatically count links you share -- on your wall or through Facebook messages -- as a "Like" for that page.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read

Like it or not, Web pages can count your Facebook shares as a "Like."

A Facebook Like multiplier bug going around highlighted a feature of the social network that may seem unfair to some: If you send a Web site's link to a friend via a Facebook message or if you post it to your Facebook wall, that Web page's Like counter ticks upward.

First noticed by The Wall Street Journal, the feature may rankle some users who don't want to be a part of an overinflated count for some Web site tracking its visitors, or users may feel violated that Facebook knows what you're sending a Friend via "private" messaging.

The count is for any site that has social plug-ins -- those social-media counters usually sitting next to articles or products. Facebook has confirmed that this is all true, and says this method of counting Likes has been in place since Facebook made it possible for Web sites to add Like buttons to their pages. In fact, the social plug-ins counter also counts comments posted in response to a story, in addition to the actual number of Likes and the shares. A recent bug adds two Likes to the count instead of one, and Facebook said it's working to fix that.

But, Facebook says, this feature doesn't affect Like counts on Facebook pages and it's not an invasion of privacy since the Likes on the plugs-ins are anonymous:

Absolutely no private information has been exposed and Facebook is not automatically Liking any Facebook Pages on a user's behalf.

Many Web sites 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.

We did recently find a bug with our social plug-ins where at times the count for the Share or Like goes up by two, and we are working on a fix to solve the issue now. To be clear, this only affects social plug-ins 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.

Facebook does scan any links that pass through the network to look for spam, according to a Facebook representative. This includes links you send to a friend through messages -- Facebook automatically reviews the links before generating a link preview.

This still leaves the issue of an inflated Like count for links -- even if you were sharing a link to show a friend something you don't like, you'd still be adding to the page's Like numbers. The lesson here? If you don't have anything nice to share, don't share it at all.