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9.6% of Facebook's Users 'May Be Fakes' (nytimes.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: Facebook estimates that about 200 million of its more than 2.07 billion users may be fakes... [Non-paywalled article here.] Colin Stretch, the general counsel of Facebook, told the Senate Intelligence Committee the company was doubling its review staff to 20,000 and using artificial intelligence to find more "bad actors"... Sean Edgett, Twitter's general counsel, testified before Congress that about 5 percent of its 330 million users are "false accounts or spam," which would add up to more than 16 million fakes.

Independent experts say the real numbers are far higher. On Twitter, little more than an email address is needed to start tweeting. Facebook's requirement that users be their authentic selves means the company asks for a smattering of information to sign up -- name, birthday, gender and email address. But few checks exist to verify if that information is true when a user signs up.

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9.6% of Facebook's Users 'May Be Fakes'

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You need to maintain a pretty good sized stable to reply to each other's posts and self-validate.
    • The nonprofit I volunteer for uses FB to communicate to volunteers. I have a fake account but everyone on the closed FB page knows it's me.

      I use a disposable email and a fake name/photo. Due to the intrusiveness of Facebook, they won't get my real information. Also I will not download the app on my phone.

      • by K10W ( 1705114 )

        The nonprofit I volunteer for uses FB to communicate to volunteers. I have a fake account but everyone on the closed FB page knows it's me.

        I use a disposable email and a fake name/photo. Due to the intrusiveness of Facebook, they won't get my real information. Also I will not download the app on my phone.

        the real devil is in the meta and not the content you provide them with. Unless you use santised seperate machine for every interactions, NEVER contaminate your regular persona machine/connection, go to above average measures to break as much as their harvesting as you can (not just on facebook website itself) etc then they will indeed know exactly who you are. Generally the real info they want isn't the content of your fb posts but your circles of interaction and ASL, pay bracket, marketing related info th

  • Way more than that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Spammers, Trolls, People who make sock puppet accounts.... there's tons of semi-fake accounts out there. I'd bet on 50%.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      "Fake account" is the new "troll".

      In other words, it's just a bullshit accusation you throw around when you don't like what someone is saying.

  • Fakebook . . . ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:56PM (#55490539)

    Definitely "Fakebook" . . . yeah, Zuckerberg's Gestapo crew will now be after me, but, when push comes to shove . . . (Especially since he will probably be the President of the USA real soon),

    "Fakebook" is an appropriate name for his business. Just ask Russia what the costs are.

    • Re:Fakebook . . . ? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @09:58PM (#55491097)

      FecesBook - people posting their random crap that no one gives a shit about
      FazeBook - yet-another-social-media-site
      FarceBook - more bullshit news then real news
      FailBook - more failed virtual relations then real ones
      FuckBook - your privacy is fucked over for profit

      • You forgot Friendface as shown in IT Crowd many years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com] ;)

      • FecesBook - people posting their random crap that no one gives a shit about
        FazeBook - yet-another-social-media-site
        FarceBook - more bullshit news then real news
        FailBook - more failed virtual relations then real ones
        FuckBook - your privacy is fucked over for profit

        Bookbook - social networking site for chickens

    • I'm thinking they may have misplaced the decimal point... 2.07 Billion, really?

      I could totally believe 83 million "real" Facebook users, people who live and breathe the app every day. 2+ Billion is counting people that haven't logged on in years, have no idea how to use "the Facebook" and otherwise holders of inactive accounts.

      Just because there's a real person behind a zombie account doesn't mean that they'll be in any way influenced by advertising or other media pushed through Facebook.

      • It's 2.07 because Facebook went on that campaign where they were creating profiles for "everyone" whether they were a user or not. So others could tag them (without their knowledge of course). Nobody really made a stink oddly enough (head scratch). Now active users vs fake users vs db created users would be an interesting ratio.
    • It would be the wildest stroke of luck if only 200 million Facebook users are fake. They will be lucky if half of their users are real.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And every one of them developers who just wanted access to the API to satisfy their stupid customers.

    Really? I need a front-end account to access the API? OK, fake identity it is then.

    They don't get it.

  • 2.07 Billion? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtall ( 79522 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @07:01PM (#55490557)

    There are roughly 7.6 billion people on the planet, and about 1/4 of them use facebook?

    I'm guessing there are well north of 200 million fakes.

    • Re:2.07 Billion? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlad30 ( 44644 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @08:18PM (#55490787)
      I consider anyone that uses Facebook more than 15 minutes a day to be a fake, real friends communicate in person
      • I haven't used Facebook for 15 minutes in the last 2 years, but I'd wager they count me as an active account holder.

    • Re:2.07 Billion? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @08:49PM (#55490889) Homepage

      There are roughly 7.6 billion people on the planet, and about 1/4 of them use facebook? I'm guessing there are well north of 200 million fakes.

      You don't understand the reach of Facebook. Here in Norway 80% of the population has used Facebook in the last three months and 65% use it daily. In the youth category (16-24) about 90% use it daily. Granted, we're only 5.2 million of the world population but "everyone" is on Facebook. These are quite reliable statistics not made by Facebook. Getting a Facebook account is the current decade's version of getting a GeoCities homepage, "everyone" has one. I'm quite willing to believe Facebook's numbers are accurate. I don't want the to be, but the facts quite clearly reject my wishes.

      • 5.2 million, that's like half of a "real" metropolitan corridor. Kudos to your uniformity in buying into Zuckerberg's platform, but not every country is locked indoors due to foul weather and lack of sunlight half the year.

        Having said all that, Norway was a really cool place to visit (in the summer), even if your lift operators in Narvik were grumpy when the tourists, myself included, were staying up to experience the midnight sun.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So basically the majority of Norwegians fell into Facebooks digital trap. You know the purposefully engineering it to drive as much interaction as possible, to force you to continually interact with it, as if it were a personal relationship. The need to respond was very manipulatively engineered into it, which is why people use it compulsively right up until it becomes an intolerable demand and toss it entirely. Then much like a cult that you walk away from, you are now abandoned by it's remaining followers

    • Its more!! It's 5 billion.. NO make it 10 billion. The NEWS doesn't care what they report!! Ratings! Ratings! Ratings! ( Robots will be counted as people. And have human rights and no liability. - The next step of fearless corporations.) This is why you continually vote for the less evil politicians - 'till there are none left.
  • It makes more sense than someone cloning my friends, giving them the same name, and trying to friend me to sell me insurance.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @07:15PM (#55490593)

    And none of them have posted on facebook in over 5 years.
    I have one account- created after where I saw facebook was headed that has no pictures and I only follow one subject. Yet- it's already suggested real life friends among the people who 'might' be my friends.

    It's fucking creepy.

    • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @07:21PM (#55490601) Journal

      Yet- it's already suggested real life friends among the people who 'might' be my friends.

      Probably, your friends installed a mobile app, which sucked up all the contacts in their device and then Facebook found your email address amongst those addresses.

      • Nope. Used a fresh email address. I'm assuming it's the interest I follow combined with geographic area.

        • interest I follow combined with geographic area

          It's likely to do with geographic area and possibly ip address tracking/ locating.

          • I would think that too but I hadn't used my other (farmville) facebook accounts for about 3 years when I set up the new non-farmville facebook account.

            It doesn't even have a proper picture of me.

            • I would think that too but I hadn't used my other (farmville) facebook accounts for about 3 years when I set up the new non-farmville facebook account.

              It doesn't even have a proper picture of me.

              I meant ip address in general. In your case, it is possible that facebook took your ip address of the new account with multiple ip address from your friends and neighbors. It then connects enough dots to recommend your actual friends along with a long list of non-actual friends.

              Ex: Let's say you lived in Smallvill

    • by xlsior ( 524145 )
      Facebook typically lists *active* accounts in their stats, which are accounts that have logged in in the past 30 days or so.
      They already discount your multiple accounts that never log in or post

      The total number of accounts in their system is undoubtedly much higher.
    • My fake FB account suggested my son as someone who "might be a friend".

      Yes, it is creepy. I suppose they looked at my network path and found a match to my son who lives at the same address.

  • Independent experts say the real numbers are far higher.

    Well, yes. Of course.

    Signing up is free. None of the information provided can be validated. There is nothing to connect an account to an actual, living person (presidents excluded).

    All those websites that force you to sign up with a FB or twitter account - they all get different, new, accounts so as not to get "interbreeding" between sites that have no business knowing about each other.

    While apps like Whatsapp are actually useful and don't ask for anything (though obviously it has a phone number, and

  • Nah, I have a fake account because some websites have a Facebook integrated comments section. Yes, I do have an overriding need to throw out my 2 cents like every other self important prick on the internet, but I don't want spam in my regular inbox or identity thieves connecting the dots in my life, so sue me. If websites didn't use Facebook and had a more traditional comments system I'd still sign up with a pseudonym and a throwaway email address.

    This need to identify yourself online, and the whole "you're

    • I just ignore those sites, or point out my issues to the admin if I value the site. But most sites I'm on have double or triple login options: native, FB, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Mine is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @07:36PM (#55490659)

    I have a profile with my real name, but everything on there is false info, fake friends, fake pictures, fake likes, fake affiliations, fake posts. But it's all consistent. I just want to see what happens.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Wait, so you lie about yourself in your social media feeds?

      I'm shocked, shocked to find that deceptive self-representation is going on here!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's substantially more work than goes into most of the fakes. Facebook screwed themselves on the signal to noise front by allowing games that encourage mutual participation by contacts. This led inexorably to people making dummy accounts to goose their performance in their main profile by using the fakes as drones to support their real progress. From what I hear about FB's analytics, they can probably sort the dummies out, but that still implies 10% should be a lowball number.

      • Ah it just takes minutes a day, and it's de-stressing to me to invent some silly mundane stories, exercise my imagination a bit and at the same time satirize some of daily life. My Facebook character does a lot of things I find funny IRL.

  • Does this mean FB will be refunding ad revenue?
  • I was born A. Hugh Jass. I have tried to sign up with my name, but Facebook wont let me. Instead I have to use a fake one: Eaton Dolittle. Sad!

  • I can't imagine why the count of reviewers would be spoken about in the same article as the fakes. The reviewers are obviously not there to address the fakes problem. There would have to be a lot more of them than 20,000. Perhaps that's just the number of people tweaking the AI system.
  • Number too low. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @10:52PM (#55491277) Homepage

    No way it's less than 20%. I suspect it's pushing 30% actually.

  • I would not use real data to open such an account. That does not make the account fake, just inaccurate. Calling it fake is just to add drama and justify their big brother demand for our personal data. I think you have got to be insane to publish all your personal data in the open for someone else to make profit from.
  • I'll see your 9.6 and bet you an additional 20.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think that number is much, much, higher. Throw in derelict accounts (like mine!) and their user base is MUCH smaller than they claim. I think Twitter's footprint is probably a little more realistic. Everything about social media is a lie.

  • I get friend requests every week from stock photography models who just want a good man to start a family with! If they're fake, my whole world view will come crashing down!

    -jcr

  • by st0nes ( 1120305 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @02:20AM (#55497113) Homepage
    My dog has an account. Is this a real or fake account?

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