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Is Buying Google +1’s Illegal?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday October 27, 2011 )

Some companies buy Facebook likes or Google +1’s to make themselves seem more popular than they really are. Questions of ethics aside, it could perhaps also be illegal.

That you can buy Google plus 1,s Facebook Likes or Fans and Twitter followers isn’t new or isn’t any big secret – these services openly advertise and can be found on any search engine. But before you scoot off to pick up 1,000 likes or +1’s for $200, have a think about this.

A “like” or “+1” could be considered an endorsement, or perhaps even a testimonial of sorts. It can have influence over other people who visit the page. If that like (sometimes indicated as “X people recommend this” when using Facebook’s Like plugin) or plus 1 is attached to a product page, it could sway purchase decisions.

Here’s what Google has to say about the +1 button: “Click the +1 button to give something your public stamp of approval. ”

That being the case, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) may have something to say about merchants buying +1’s. They’ve been cracking down on fake online reviews and such for years and in my opinion, a statement such as “2145 people recommend this” or even a 2145 indicated on a +1 counter when those 2145 people have been bought constitutes 2145 fake reviews.

However, as my opinion and $3 will only get you a bad cup of coffee, to be sure you’ll need to ask the FTC or equivalent in your country.

Something else to consider – getting on the wrong side of the FTC (or equivalent) would be bad, but getting on the wrong side of Google wouldn’t be much better. Google Hell is a cold, dark and lonely place and can be rather difficult to escape.

The other question that buying likes, fans, plus one’s etc. might raise if you are exposed is – if this is how you promote, what are your other business practices like?


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