Business

Facebook has no idea how many fake accounts it has — but it could be nearly 140M

Above: It's just so hard to tell who is real and who isn't on the Internet.

Image Credit: Facebook

Poor Facebook, it only has a vague idea how many tens of millions of its accounts are fake.

Facebook’s most recent annual report revealed that fake accounts make up 5.5 – 11.2 percent of its monthly active users.

The social networking giant has 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs), meaning that between 67.65 million and 137.76 million accounts are either duplicates or false — a rather gaping range of 70.11 million.

The Next Web first spotted this nugget in Facebook’s lengthy 10-K filing with the SEC.

These estimates were higher in 2013 than in 2012, when Facebook estimated that 7.2% of its 1.06 billion monthly active users (76.3 million) were false.

Facebook divides false accounts into three categories: duplicate accounts, user-misclassified accounts, and undesirable accounts.

Duplicates represent a substantial portion of the false accounts — 4.3 – 7.9 percent.

User misclassified accounts are where users have created personal profiles for a business, organization, or non-human entity. Facebook’s terms of service ask that people use a Page instead of a personal profile if, for example, they feel compelled to give their cat a social media presence. These make up .8 percent to 2.1 percent of worldwide MAUs.

.4 percent to 1.2% are undesirable accounts, meaning they violate the terms of service and are used for spamming.

The number of duplicate accounts is up from 2012, while the number of misclassified accounts stayed fairly consistent, and the number of undesirable accounts decreased.

Facebook said that the percentage of accounts that are duplicate or false is “meaningfully lower” in developed markets such as the United States or United Kingdom, and higher in developing markets such as India and Turkey.

Facebook started to crack down on fake users, fake accounts, and fake likes in 2012. Its business is predicated on brands being able to connect with real people, so false accounts pose a serious threat. As part of its campaign to purge fake accounts and the like, singers Rihanna and Shakira lost 22,000 fans, Lady Gaga lost 32,000, and Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker was down by nearly 100,000 fans. 

These estimates of fakes from this annual report represent a huge range — the difference between 5.5 percent and 11.2 percent is 70.11 million accounts — showing that Facebook not only struggles to fight the fakes but also to figure out which accounts are real and what aren’t.

Facebook said it recently began working with third parties to develop a more accurate data analysis engine for this purpose.

One area where Facebook is succeeding is mobile. Its mobile numbers have soared, both in terms of users and money coming in. Facebook now has 945 million active mobile users, and 53 percent of Facebook’s $2.5 billion in revenue comes from mobile ads for the final three months of last year. The daily number of Facebook mobile users is up to 556 million, and nearly 300 million users only access Facebook from their phones or tablets.

The company’s stock also hit a recent high, and Facebook will celebrate its 10th birthday tomorrow.


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