Facebook has an undeniable large audience and it leverages this to attract advertisers to serve them ads. Currently, Facebook says they have over 2 billion monthly active users, which is a huge number by any measure, but that figure is being challenged.
According to a 75 page report published by Plain Site, they claim that Facebook has been lying about their monthly active user base to investors.
“Facebook has been lying to the public about its scale of the problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network,” the report says. “It’s official metrics–many of of which it had stopped reporting quarterly — are self contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.”
This realization affects Facebook in a number of ways. According to the report, the fact that advertising on Facebook is based on targeting adverts on 2 billion real human beings means that people are throwing money down the drain. It also means that it is hard to know fake accounts from real since they find ways to ‘like’ pages to throw off anti-fraud algorithms to seem genuine. This however profits Facebook since they still get revenue either way. Also, fake accounts can defraud other users on Facebook through scams, fake news and other forms of deception.
The report checks for Facebook’s disclosure of fake accounts from their quartely reports and shows their analysis. “We can at least conclude that in recent quarters, Facebook believes that of its MAUs, somewhere from about 13% minimum to about 36% are fake,” the report says. “Yet even with its near perfect self-evaluated performance at removing fake accounts, fake accounts are still rampant on the site with real consequences.”
The report also quotes a journalist from the New York Times who was researching the fake accounts issue on Facebook and apparently Facebook is bad at doing this if it originates from the United States. “On the fifth account, Facebook blocked me from using my name. I thought the jig was up. Then I added a middle initial, and the profile was approved. Later, I deleted the middle initial. After I had created eight fake accounts, Facebook began requiring a phone number. So I waited a few days and created three more,” Jack Nicas, the NYT journalist reported.
From the report, apparently Facebook had disclosed that since Q4 2017, it has deleted 2.841 billion fake accounts. Facebook has over 2.2 billion current MAUs, amounting to 55% of all accounts ever created.
“The fact of the matter is that Facebook does not now and will not ever have an accurate way to measure its fake account problem,” PlainSite says.
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Neither Facebook nor Plain Site knows the exact number. The accusers may have exaggerated their estimate also to attack Facebook. If whatsapp can have 1.5 billion MAU, facebook is likely to have more than that.
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