The diverse networking possibilities offered by social media are benefitting counterfeiters enormously, according to the latest investigative study, titled ‘Share and Share Alike’, by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). The counterfeiters use special topic and fan pages, for example, to spread their offers. Given the fact that readers and consumers then share and forward the content, the range of people who view the illegal offers is steadily growing.
“Counterfeiters see social media as a haven and actively use both open and closed group pages, along with ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’, to disseminate their offerings,” explains the UKIPO report. “Social media platforms make it easy to move sales channels around by establishing fan pages and making it possible to carry out transactions on or off the social media platform.”
According to the study, Facebook is a particularly attractive trading platform for counterfeiters. The UKIPO found that a lot of questionable content is shared across Facebook groups – about 8% of all open-group activities and nearly 41% of closed-group activities supposedly feature suspicious content. Although Facebook offers its users the opportunity to report suspicious activities, according to the social media giant, such leads can only be processed very slowly.
Another crucial factor is that many of the consumers found on social media lack a sense of wrongdoing when it comes to purchasing fakes. According to the UKIPO report, they often even deliberately buy illegal imitations. In total, in about 88% of investigated trading activities, social media users were aware that the products being offered were counterfeit.
The report openly addresses the lack of data available which makes an assessment of the actual role of social media in counterfeiting difficult. In particular, there is a lack of information on trading in closed groups and even the latest report by the UKIPO, in the end, offers only a small snapshot from 2015 based on the analysis of literature and an online survey conducted among 3,000 users. Further investigations, so the conclusion of the report, are necessary to get a comprehensive understanding of the problem of product piracy in social networks.
In addition to Facebook, other social media such as WhatsApp and the Chinese Yupoo have already been identified as distribution channels for counterfeit goods (we reported).