Facebook’s fake account problem keeps getting bigger.
The company is removing more fake accounts than ever, taking down more than 2 billion accounts so far in 2019 alone, Facebook disclosed in a new transparency report.
Company executives said there’s been a sharp uptick in the number of fake accounts created this year. There were 2.19 billion accounts removed during the first quarter of 2019, nearly double the 1.2 billion removed during the fourth quarter of 2018.
That rise was largely due to spammers and other “bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time,” Facebook’s VP of Integrity Guy Rosen wrote in a blog post.
Rosen was also quick to caution that Facebook is able to remove many of those fake accounts automatically at the time they are created. “These numbers are driven largely by automated attacks…most of these are blocked within minutes of their creation,” he said during a call with reporters. Facebook says it removed 99.8 percent of fake accounts before they were reported by users.
The speed with which Facebook is able to detect fake accounts matters as those that are automatically detected don’t get counted in the company’s user metrics. Some Facebook critics have raised questions about the number of fake accounts on its platform.
Facebook acknowledged that a sizable number do manage to evade its filters, the company estimates around 5% of its monthly account base is fake accounts. Facebook had 2.375 billion monthly active users during the first quarter of 2019, putting the number of fake accounts around 118 million.
In a separate blog post, the company’s VP of Analytics Alex Schultz cautioned that the sheer number of fake accounts isn’t necessarily indicative of more risk to users.”The number for fake accounts actioned is very skewed by simplistic attacks, which don’t represent real harm or even a real risk of harm,” he wrote. “Overall, we remain confident that the vast majority of people and activity on Facebook are genuine.”
The numbers do, however, put into perspective just how vast the problem has become.