Facebook removes 3B fake accounts, but how many missed?

It’s not clear whether Facebook is getting better at catching made-up accounts, or problem worsening

Facebook removed more than 3 billion fake accounts from October to March, twice as many as the previous six months, the company said Thursday.

Nearly all of them were caught before they had a chance to become “active” users of the social network.

ALSO READ: Facebook cracks down on groups spreading harmful information

Nonetheless, Facebook’s new report didn’t say how many fake accounts it also missed. As a result, it’s not clear whether Facebook is getting better at catching made-up accounts or if the problem itself is just getting worse — or both.

The increase in removals shows the challenges Facebook faces in removing accounts created by computers to spread spam, fake news and other objectionable material. Even as Facebook’s detection tools get better, so do the efforts by the creators of these fake accounts.

The new numbers come as the company grapples with challenge after challenge, ranging from fake news to Facebook’s role in elections interference, hate speech and incitement to violence in the U.S., Myanmar, India and elsewhere.

Facebook employs thousands of people to review posts, photos, comments and videos for violations. Some things are also detected without humans, using artificial intelligence. Both humans and AI make mistakes and Facebook has been accused of political bias as well as ham-fisted removals of posts discussing —rather than promoting — racism.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called for government regulation to decide what should be considered harmful content and on other issues. But at least in the U.S., government regulation of speech could run into First Amendment hurdles.

Of the 3.4 billion accounts removed in the six-month period, 1.2 billion came during the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2.2 billion during the first quarter of this year. More than 99 per cent of these were disabled before someone reported them to the company. Facebook says most of the fake accounts were blocked “within minutes” of their creation. In the April-September period last year, Facebook blocked 1.5 billion accounts.

Facebook has 2.4 billion active monthly users. Most of the removed accounts won’t count in this figure. Still, the company estimates that 5% of its monthly active users are fake.

Facebook attributed the spike in the removed accounts to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.” The company declined to say where these attacks originated, only that they were from different parts of the world.

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Olympic skier from Nanaimo suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Electrical appliance failure likely caused apartment fire that killed Saanich resident

Large parts of the Richmond Road apartment building remain uninhabitable following June 21 fire

Vancouver Island fruit stand plundered on first day of season

Leeanne and Jack Guthrie dismayed to find money and fruit stolen from roadside stand

Fate of accused in Saanich couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Victoria woman accesses healing Burn Fund resources 45 years after injury

Stasi Manser was burned when she was five years old and now works as an adult burn survivor advocate

VIDEO: Victoria airport guests see dinosaur surprise

Two boys dressed as raptors get a shock when their grandmother comes to greet them

Nanaimo man gets jail time for posting explicit photos of ex-girlfriends

Man’s name cannot be revealed to protect victims’ identities

Former Greater Victoria badminton coach pleads guilty to 8 counts of sexual abuse

All charges relate to incidents taking place from 1970 to 1984

‘Irresponsible’ cigarette tossing blamed for two brushfires on Pat Bay highway

Fires could have started from any of the “dozens” of discarded cigarettes, says chief

North Island thrift store robbed at knifepoint, say RCMP

Suspect fled on bicycle following Tuesday stick-up

UPDATE: RCMP arrest second person in North Island arson investigation

Police say suspects identified, house fire ‘not random’

Fraser Institute releases latest B.C. high school rankings

Fastest improving schools are in cities including Agassiz, Kitimat and 100 Mile House

Most Read