The 37-page indictment by the U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller against 13 Russian nationals makes one thing clear – the Russian Propaganda Machine (R.P.M.) was super efficient in using Facebook thanks to the use of a lot of fake accounts and smart targeting. And guess what, it is a growing problem for Facebook, as its most recent 10K filing reveals.
The Primer Bot (a service from Sean Gourley’s Primer) identified and alerted to the changes Facebook’s recent 10K filing. Facebook, very quietly noted that at the end of 2017, duplicate accounts might have represented approximately 10% of its worldwide Monthly Active Users (MAUs.) At the end of 2016, the number of duplicate accounts was approximately 6% of Facebook’s global MAUs. In 2015, that dupes accounted for about 5% of the worldwide MAUs.
The real problem, however, is with Facebook calls “false accounts,” a nice euphemism for “fake or bot accounts.” These are growing much faster than most realize. For example, in 2016, the number of fake accounts was about 1% of the total MAUs. That’s roughly 18.6 million.
During 2017, these fake accounts aka “false accounts may have represented approximately 3-4% of our worldwide MAUs.” That’s about 64-to-85 million fake accounts, which is a massive jump in the number of fake accounts being created on the platform.
You can quickly come to some conclusions:
- Facebook had underestimated the extent of the problem.
- The bot creators got smarter and kept beating Facebook’s checks and balances.
- Facebook willingly ignored the fake and duplicate accounts because it allowed them to show growth and to the Wall Street.
I, for one, believe that it is was a combination of all three!
- Facebook blames duplicate and fake accounts as a problem localized to some non-developed markets such as Vietnam, Turkey, Philippines, Indonesia, and India. It is funny because they don’t quite make much money there.
- A duplicate account is one that a user maintains in addition to the principal account.
- Facebook divides”false” accounts into two categories: (1) user-misclassified accounts, where users have created personal profiles for a business, organization, or non-human entity such as a pet (such entities are permitted on Facebook using a Page rather than a personal profile under our terms of service); and (2) undesirable accounts, which represent user profiles that we determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming.