In the last six months, Facebook has removed more than double the amount of fake accounts (October 2018 to March 2019) as they did in the six months prior to that (April 2018 – September 2018). The semi-annual total suggests that 3 billion fake profiles were removed in just a short, six-month time span.
If it brings any peace of mind – Facebook officials claim that the majority of the fake accounts were removed prior to becoming “active” and thus preventing them from becoming live, abusive accounts.
An updated Community Standards Enforcement Report released by Facebook in recent days, reveal that the fake accounts would be deleted “within minutes,” however, the computer-generated accounts (millions at a time) were not able to be 100% blocked by Facebook. Though many more were intercepted, the influx made it impossible for Facebook officials to stop them all from becoming live accounts. Approximately 5% of the current 2.4 billion monthly active users are false accounts (this shakes out to about 119 million spam or fake accounts). In comparison to the previous semi-annual report, this estimate is up approximately 3.5%.
A big complaint against the platform is that it requires very minimal authentication of individuals creating a new account. The use of pseudonyms, nicknames, etc. prevent the platform from cracking down on authentication. It’s a “thorny” issue Facebook officials claim.
One of the only ways the authentication process could be made stronger would be to allow the governments in respective countries to become a part of the process, and that would likely cause the Facebook image to deteriorate. In the U.S., freedom of speech is an inalienable right, and allowing the government to intervene in the creation of profiles, because of pseudonyms and other perceived identities, could create a major issue – like infringing on Constitutional rights of citizens. Thus, it’s something Facebook is working to manage on their own without reinforcements from other powers.
As Facebook technology becomes more advanced in blocking spam, fake news, harassment, nudity, and so forth, so do the means in which those creating fake accounts resort to using. It will likely be a never-ending battle of who-can-outsmart-who in the digital age. With the next U.S. Democratic Primary right around the corner in 2020, the prevention of fake news and false accounts has increased importance.
There was an increase of 1.9 million posts, photos, videos, and other materials removed in the most recent report (up from 5.4 million to 7.3 million), which further illustrates the uphill battle Facebook faces with keyboard warriors and internet trolls. Facebook did, however, suggest that they stopped 65% of hate speech found on the platform prior to the content being reported from other users – which is one win for the social media giant.
Another concerningly notable trend is the rate of nudity-related posts on the platform. With a decline in Q4 of 2018 related to nudity, watching those figures rise in Q1 of 2019 became alarming, but not to Facebook. The most recent report claims that those figured increased due to the fact that the platform “prioritized [their] efforts in other, more harmful, content areas.” They also noted that 96% of the nudity and sexual activity content was still detected by their technology. It still serves as a questionable section of the report.
Even with a combination of artificial intelligence, thousands of employees who review posts, and other precautionary measures, some materials still manage to pass through the safeguards and end up in the feeds of millions – even billions – of users.
Officials would not divulge on where the mass influx of fake accounts originated from, but did say they were, “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.” More or less – bots with IP address gone haywire so they cannot be easily tracked. Context clues suggest that the accounts came from “other parts of the world” – likely far from the Facebook headquarters in San Francisco, California and outside of the United States.
Though Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, confidently announced, “we’re taking down more fake accounts than ever,” he, himself, was spreading a bit of fake news. With more active fake accounts on Facebook, there is clearly a need for more to be removed. The platform has not solved the code on combating bots and “bad actors” just yet. “They were never considered active in our systems and we don’t count them in any of our overall community metrics,” said Zuckerberg last week. In that case, the problem is getting worse.
Can Facebook keep up with fake accounts? Time – or the next semi-annual report – will tell.