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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: RCMP Emergency Response Team at known drug house in Chilliwack

Armed officers responded to reports of shots, bring in ERT, K-9 unit and spike belt

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe BC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

BC Cancer Foundation launches COVID-19 response fund

Abbotsford resident encourages support of cancer research and care

Abbotsford Hospital COVID-19 outbreak over, a new one reported at business

New World Technologies is site of ‘very small’ outbreak, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Solidarity demonstration planned for Abbotsford on Friday

People gathering to protest police brutality and systemic racism in downtown Abbotsford

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

Abbotsford Airshow launching virtual Aerospace Camp

Online S.T.E.M. open to students aged 10 to 15, starts later this summer

Aldergrove man, 60, can ‘finally afford to retire’ after winning $24M in lottery

Ron Cumiskey plans to use the hefty Lotto 6/49 winnings to stay close to home and his daughters

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

Highway 1 closed north of Yale after body found on highway

Coroners Service reportedly on the scene, next Drive BC update at noon

Teen cashier praised after paying grocery bill for Aldergrove woman

Otter Co-op’s Brooklyn Roberts asked to pay Tamara Smith’s $44 grocery bill after debit card declined

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

After delay, ‘Metro Vancouver’s Largest Indoor Amusement Park’ set to open in Surrey

At Central City Fun Park, ‘things will be a little different than what we had originally planned’

Most Read