The evening I was accepted into my university of choice, I, like many college prefrosh, immediately joined my incoming class’s Facebook group and began to prowl for my future besties. That night I received more friend requests than I had since I’d first made my account. Of course, once I arrived at school, I ended up friends with none of the ecstatic people that clogged my news feed, but to this day I haven’t really unfriended anyone — I sort of like seeing the lives of my peers unfold in ways so drastically different than mine. However, not all of my pre-college Facebook friends turned out to be innocuous — imagine my surprise when, at the end of my first semester, my college blog reported that one Aaron Phillips, someone we had all friended, didn’t even exist. Although nothing malicious was done with his fake Facebook account, it was a tad unsettling that someone had friended all of us and achieved access to private-ish information by posing as a student. And as it turns out, this isn’t a rare occurrence — according to Facebook’s company filings published this week, around 83 million users have been identified by Facebook as likely to have come from fake sources.
According to Beta News, roughly 4.8 percent of Facebook’s 955 million Monthly Active Users may have originated from duplicate accounts, with a further 2.4 percent coming from user-misclassified accounts (meaning profiles created instead of pages for businesses or “non-human entities,” like pets), and 1.5 percent from undesirable accounts (meaning spammer accounts, and Aaron Philips accounts).
According to Facebook, while it appears that fake accounts are more of a problem in developing markets, their identification methodology still leaves a lot to be desired:
“These estimates are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts and we apply significant judgment in making this determination, such as identifying names that appear to be fake or other behavior that appears inauthentic to the reviewers. As such, our estimation of duplicate or false accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts. We are continually seeking to improve our ability to identify duplicate or false accounts and estimate the total number of such accounts, and such estimates may be affected by improvements or changes in our methodology.”
Although there isn’t much Facebook can do to prevent people from making accounts for their dogs or phony college students, the news that nearly 10% of its active users aren’t even real people probably won’t bode well with their advertisers. But even then, considering how heavily used Facebook is even in light of some 83 million fake accounts, I doubt we’ll be seeing major ads pulled due to poor traffic. Perhaps the worst outcomes fake accounts present, short of facilitating identity theft in some cases, are those annoying spam bots that post decidedly NSFW links on your wall, or just odd “friends” that you thought you knew from somewhere, but as it turns out, don’t actually exist. But even then, there’s something unsettling about some random person having access to your personal gripes and unadvised drunken statuses.
Perhaps it’s time to go on an unfriending spree after all.
(via Beta News.)
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