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

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘optimistic’ about Bamfield road upgrades

Premier John Horgan travelled Bamfield Main to Anacla

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

UPDATED: Police raid 23-year-old cannabis compassion club in Victoria

Public can expect to see more enforcement from the community safety unit

Father of murdered Realtor writes letter, pleading for help from Saanich mayor

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008, her case remains open

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Premier in Bamfield to talk about improving the road

Horgan hopes to find some solutions to the health and safety issues in wake of tragic bus crash

Saanich teachers take support staff strike to MLA Lana Popham’s doorstep

Teachers rally outside the local MLA’s office to show support for support staff

Victoria police find fentanyl, cocaine, meth and cash during downtown arrest

VicPD arrested three people on Oct. 30 in a downtown parking lot

Despite reports, no one found in Saanich donation bin

Police confirmed no one found stuck or in the area

VicPD unable to locate suspect following James Bay ‘stalker alert’

Flyers posted around neighbourhood warn of man being followed and a verbal confrontation

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Most Read