Facebook Bans 500 Million New Accounts for Fraud

More than 500 million new Facebook accounts were flagged as fraud and deleted in the first three months of 2018, according to Alfred Ng in C|Net, who explains that these accounts were blocked within minutes of being registered.

“That’s an average of over 6.5 million attempts to create a fake account every day from Jan. 1 to March 31. Facebook boasts 2.2 billion monthly active users, and if Facebook’s AI tools didn’t catch these fake accounts flooding the social network, its population would have swelled immensely in just 89 days,” Ng says.

Suddenly the news from last September makes more sense; at that time, Facebook’s math just didn’t add up, when the platform boasted more users from specific demographics than was humanly possible. The answer? Those enormous numbers of fraud accounts, I suspect.

Facebook has also recently suspended 200 apps that are suspected of abusing its data policies, notes Garett Sloane in AdAge.

“Announced on Monday, the social network’s announced mass freezing of developers is its first major enforcement action since it started to audit apps in March to uncover companies that might have stolen data,” Sloane explains. 

Some might say at least Zuckerberg is taking action to cut down on the massive fraud and data abuse taking place on his platform. As Ng notes, he had no choice.

“In April, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, promising greater transparency and responsibility from the social network. Facebook has gone under intense scrutiny over issues of disinformation campaigns from Russian trolls, as well as a data scandal involving 87 million people,” Ng writes.

The company is leveraging artificial intelligence to spot – and stop – new fake accounts, but they aren’t perfect. 

“While it blocked more than 500 million fake accounts, Facebook estimates that about 3 percent to 4 percent of accounts on the website are fake,” Ng notes. That amounts to at least 66 million fake accounts that are still active – and still counting in the audience when you pay to advertise to them.

The challenge, according to Facebook’s Guy Rosen, is that the fraudsters are getting increasingly savvy. 

“We’re up against sophisticated adversaries who continually change tactics to circumvent our controls, which means we must continuously build and adapt our efforts,” Rosen said. “It’s why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology.”

Meanwhile, brands have a choice to make with their limited marketing resources. They can continue to pump money into the fraud-ridden Facebook/Google duopoly, even while their reach drops due to the new feed algorithms. They can continue to measure their metrics based on dodgy reach estimates that can’t be real. They can continue to deal with the basic lack of trust that consumers have for social media ads, and continue to feed the fraud-riddled beast in the misguided quest for eyeballs.

Or, they can take a breath, step back and look at the metrics they really want – attention, engagement, and the motivation to act. It’s time to bring some sanity back to advertising.