Gold farming is when a macro or a person who works in a sweatshop repeatedly does a task in order to gain money. Most of the gold farming activity originates in developing countries such as China and India (though mostly the former), where it is profitable there to operate a gaming sweatshop due to the low wages and poor working conditions in the countries. The workers there play Runescape for very long hours gathering items that sell for large profits in-game (such as sharks, yew logs, or green dragonhide). They then sell their collected products to other players for runescape gold. The collected gold is then illegally sold for real world cash. However, they may also just sell the gathered items because having human operated players makes them able to perform activities that are very difficult for macros to perform, such as fighting Green Dragons or dealing with random events. The second reason is because since they are not using macroing programs, it makes it harder for Jagex to detect.
During the fair trade updates, gold farmers logged onto the customer's account and directly gathered the gold using the account, erasing the "middle man.", However, after the return of free trade, there has been an increase in real-world trading, macroing, and spamming, causing several of these sweatshops to return to their old ways. Several gold farmers use macros, making it easier for Jagex to ban an account. However, it is very difficult for Jagex to ban several individuals, rather than companies, for macroing because there is a higher priority in banning real world traders. Therefore, individual botters can use automated software for a prolonged period of time, making greater problems with ping in Runescape. After the return of free trade, server ping has skyrocketed, making lag another problem.
Gold farmers usually break 2 or 3 rules at the same time: rule 7 (macroing), rule 12 (Real world item trading), and sometimes rule 6 (account sharing/trading). Any spamming bot used by the farmers will usually break other rules, usually rule 7 (macroing), rule 9 (encouraging others to break rules), rule 11 (advertising), and rule 1, if they're doing it constantly. (NOTE: These rules are numbered according to how they were BEFORE the update which removed "multiple logging in".