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Facebook Estimates Around 10% of Accounts Are Fake 140

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the niws-discovers-facebook dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week, during its fourth-quarter earnings report, Facebook revealed it had 1.23 billion monthly active users, 757 million daily active users, 945 million monthly active mobile users, and 556 million daily active mobile users. In its 10-K filing published on the weekend, the company estimated that in 2013, between 5.5 percent and 11.2 percent of these users were fake." Another anonymous reader sent in a link to a recent interview where Mark Zuckerberg appears more pragmatic in his opinions about forcing real identities online: "Former Facebook employees say identity and anonymity have always been topics of heated debate in the company. Now Zuckerberg seems eager to relax his old orthodoxies. 'I don’t know if the balance has swung too far, but I definitely think we’re at the point where we don’t need to keep on only doing real identity things,' he says. 'If you’re always under the pressure of real identity, I think that is somewhat of a burden.'"
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Facebook Estimates Around 10% of Accounts Are Fake

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    In reality, it's more like 50%.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dccase (56453)

      Certainly 50% of mine are fake.

      And the other one is slightly exaggerated too.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And who really cares? It may be 10% of the accounts that are obviously fake, then there are probably a huge number of accounts that are "fake" in the way that the person behind it don't want to reveal the real identity for one reason or another but holds a low profile.

      Facebook is a pool for exhibitionists.

  • I have a fake account for testing. It would be much simpler if they made testing as simple as companies like Stripe. Until then... fake accounts.

    • Re:For Testing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Threni (635302) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:18PM (#46145957)

      What's a fake account? I have a regular one, for everyone, then I have one for competitions and the like, where you have to `like` something to enter. Clearly I'm not going to do this on my normal account because it'll spam all my contacts and I'll look like a twat. What do they expect you to do? But it's not "fake" - it's got my name on it (sort of). I do the same for Twitter, but I don't recall having to pretend that my second (or my first, come to that) Twitter account was "mine".

      • Re:For Testing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:30PM (#46146045)

        What's a fake account?

        Given their terms of service your testing account is almost certainly fake. If you only look at it to "like" stuff that you don't even care enough about to do so publicly, its fake, (as is your "like").

        I only know a few people with facebook accounts who don't have a second so-called "testing" account, plus a couple accounts they started and then abandoned.

        So I'm thinking the 50% number is closer to the mark than the 10%

        • Re:For Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Immerman (2627577) on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:40PM (#46146393)

          > If you only look at it to "like" stuff that you don't even care enough about to do so publicly, its fake, (as is your "like").

          It's a "like" that was unabashedly purchased from a user, how real could it possibly be?

        • by isorox (205688)

          What's a fake account?

          Given their terms of service your testing account is almost certainly fake. If you only look at it to "like" stuff that you don't even care enough about to do so publicly, its fake, (as is your "like").

          I only know a few people with facebook accounts who don't have a second so-called "testing" account, plus a couple accounts they started and then abandoned.

          So I'm thinking the 50% number is closer to the mark than the 10%

          I only knew a few people with facebook accounts who have a second "testing" account, so I'm thinking the 1% number is closer to the mark than 10%

          See how the plural of anecdote is not data?

          • No, he doesn't see. :-) Don't confuse us with facts. Besides, just because your anecdote shows an anecdote doesn't scale doesn't mean his anecdote doesn't scale.
        • by gsslay (807818)

          Define "publicly". It's on a facebook page, that's public. What, the account doesn't have any "friends"? Well I'm not a sociable person.

          How about when I do "fake" things on my "real" account? How does facebook know if I really like something or not? How does it know whether my latest status update isn't all lies? Would that make my real facebook account also fake?

          Facebook have absolutely no idea whether an account is "genuine" by any practical definition, or not. And unless they roll out some kind o

        • by kevinT (14723)

          In my personal case - I have one account for family, one for my spouses work, one for commenting on web sites like ThinkProgress. They are all "real" but they do violate the terms of service that say you can only have one account on facebook.

          Oh and I forgot the account that I used to "validate" my Huffington Post login. And the couple of accounts abandoned when I changed ISP's and ...

          5% - that might be the number of "real" accounts on facebook!

      • you do realise those competitions where you have to like the page and share it are fake now don't you? No one ever really wins them. It's just a means of harvesting live FB accounts so they can then tag spam others.
    • by Wycliffe (116160)

      I would never trust a "testing" account 100% and there is always more than one way for something to break
      so you're never going to eliminate fake testing accounts. That being said I doubt developers make up a
      large percentage of the "fake" accounts and I bet there are more "duplicate" accounts than fake accounts
      though. It seems like alot of kids create multiple accounts, abandon old accounts and create new ones,
      etc...

    • by tylersoze (789256)

      Yeah same here the only reason I have a Facebook account is for testing FB integration in mobile apps.

      • Yeah same here the only reason I have a Facebook account is for testing FB integration in mobile apps.

        Don't lie to me.

  • Now Zuckerberg seems eager to relax his old orthodoxies

    Of course he does - if 10% are fake then he wants that 10% included in his figures, not excluded.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      I wonder if that 10% counted as 'fake' include or exclude multiple PR=B$ accounts or are they counted as real.

      The answer has always been, force a real identity to open the account but allow the account to publicly operate under as an avatar identity as well as the real identity and allow the user to choose which they are using but for safeties sake default to the avatar.

    • Now Zuckerberg seems eager to relax his old orthodoxies

      Of course he does - if 10% are fake then he wants that 10% included in his figures, not excluded.

      I think it's because you sell ads and stuff to accounts. Lots of folks like having multiple accounts for whatever reason.
      If you're worried about your real identity, don't go to the fBook or Google, but I believe MarkZ realizes that a lot of folks have 3 or 4 gmail accounts.
      It doesn't really matter why. If you can get those folks to join fBook and breed accounts like bacteria, then there's profit.
      Which isn't really a new orthodoxy for MarkZ.

  • by DMiax (915735) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:08PM (#46145897)

    At this point, they will get to your name in any case. They have accumulated such a massive data base that they will identify you in a number of other ways. Your real name will eventually leak to them through your friends or because they match it with your name.surname@gmail.com address, or mining your company's staff page, or because you pay something with your credit card, etc... Plus a ton of other things.

    Just because you don't have your real name there it does not mean they don't know who you are. It might help gainst other parties data mining/stalking you, though.

    • by icebike (68054) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:37PM (#46146063)

      At this point, they will get to your name in any case.

      Exactly.

      And worse, this is true even if you have NEVER signed up for facebook, because all of the idiots that use facebook for their address book, on their phone, so they even have your number, and names and numbers of everybody else in these fool's contact list and the ability to cross reference them all.

      • by antdude (79039)

        Is there a way to find out who did it?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        The EU is investigating their creation of shadow profiles, and you should write to your MEP to ask them to support this effort.

    • I have a real account, and I manage a couple groups. One (a local bike ride) receives a steady stream of requests for new members to join the group. Half of these are fake Chinese or Indian accounts - it's obvious from their profiles. The rest are real local folks. I have no idea how that maps into the total number of fake IDs.
    • If they tightened up security better then many people wouldn't need a secondary "fake" account. This is after I pointed out a super easy trick to Facebook that will quickly give you the full friend list of a user, even if that person set visibility of his friend list to 'only me' and even if you're not friends with that person. (Not would they know that you acquired their friend list). Facebook claim that users shouldn't expect your friend list to be private, which makes it all the more misleading to offe
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @11:51AM (#46150217)

        If they tightened up security better then many people wouldn't need a secondary "fake" account. This is after I pointed out a super easy trick to Facebook that will quickly give you the full friend list of a user, even if that person set visibility of his friend list to 'only me' and even if you're not friends with that person. (Not would they know that you acquired their friend list). Facebook claim that users shouldn't expect your friend list to be private, which makes it all the more misleading to offer restricted visibility of tour friends list. Broken / misleading security is a lot worse than no security, i.e. just telling people everyone can obtain their full friends list. This trick exists to this day, had not been addressed or even acknowledged as valid. So much for helping out Facebook through contacting them.

        You're assuming the security is there for the users.

        It's not. The whole notion of privacy on Facebook, or Google, or any other social networking site is purely for marketing purposes. Yes, marketing. The people who run these companies aren't stupid. They know that a number of people will refuse to put on personal information if they weren't in someway "protected" or can "control" it.

        Of course, it's really like telling a secret - once you tell, it's not a secret anymore, and any promises made by the told party are mere words said to encourage the telling of secrets.

        Facebook, Google, and others have the vast databases because they've hoodwinked everyone into believing they have control over the information. Just a few empty words to get people to open up.

        The adage still holds true - don't put online what you don't want the whole world to know.

    • Why would they even care about your name? They're not the NSA.

      They can pinpoint your demographic. That's enough for them.

  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:09PM (#46145909)

    Yeah sometimes its necessary. A friend of mine has been stalked by a Neo Nazi gang for some time after she spoke out somewhere about racism. Death threats, and so on (Neo nazis are one of the nastiest organized crime things I've ever seen!). She has *very good* reason to want to be anonymous and use a fake name on facebook only known to family and close friends.

    Its *dangerous* to force real identities on people.

    • by Algae_94 (2017070)

      (Neo nazis are one of the nastiest organized crime things I've ever seen!

      I'm not doubting their nastiness, but how many "organized crime things" have you had dealings with?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GumphMaster (772693)

        I deal with two routinely: our State and Federal government (Downunder not murrican versions)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They are very nasty. One of my best friends has been brainwashed by a group of them in Oregon. He started out mildly conservative, but after an increasingly poor series of choices he was left in pretty hard times, and listened to LOTS of right wing radio. He was given right wing propaganda to read (often disguised as gun magazines) and preach to other students at his school. After he dropped out in the final months, he pretty much became a raving lunatic. I can't really blame him, he was a war veteran

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Why should someone have to have "dealings with organised crime" simply to wish to protect their privacy? There are numerous reasons that someone might wish to keep their online life separate from their real life.
        • by Algae_94 (2017070)
          Try to follow the thread. I asked a question that had nothing to do with why someone would wish to protect their privacy. I'm more interested in the GP's dealings with "organized crime things" to gauge how bad his run ins with Neo-nazis are.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    He has only relaxed his desire for id because the meta inferences he and the company can make are actually better then trusting people to type their real names.

    I do not use facebook anymore!

  • Define "fake" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trogre (513942) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:19PM (#46145965) Homepage

    If I put up a Facebook page for my cat, is that considered a fake account? No fake identities have been used, though perhaps the T&S require all users to be human.

    What about people who have two FB profiles - eg one filled with gaming apps and all the crap that comes along with it, and the other for socialising?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Em Adespoton (792954)

      If I put up a Facebook page for my cat, is that considered a fake account? No fake identities have been used, though perhaps the T&S require all users to be human.

      What about people who have two FB profiles - eg one filled with gaming apps and all the crap that comes along with it, and the other for socialising?

      Is your cat 13 years old or older? I don't think they require you to be human, but they do have an age requirement. Maybe your pet turtle would be a better choice...?

      • by s.petry (762400)
        They never said "human" years vs. "dog" or "cat" years did they?
        • by Mashdar (876825)
          They never said Earth years for that matter. Pick whatever periodic event you like!
        • Hmm... for that matter, after my bot has clocked a certain number of CPU cycles, does it reach the age of majority?

    • by tepples (727027)

      An "account" has a name, mobile phone number,* e-mail address, and password. Each account can be the maintainer of one or more "pages" separate from the account's own timeline.

      * Not all accounts have the mobile phone number filled in, but several Facebook privileges are off limits to users who have not verified ability to receive SMS at a particular number that is globally unique among Facebook users [facebook.com].

    • I had 26 gaming accounts from my brief foray into Farmville. The accounts are still live, but I handed the usernames and passwords to people who still played. So they could send cows and crap. I want to part of that any more.
  • by ctheme (2694307) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:20PM (#46145971)
    Does this mean that 10% of my friends aren't really my friends?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Given most people overestimate friends vs acquaintances, I'd say it's closer to 90% aren't really friends.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:20PM (#46145973) Homepage Journal

    A lot of so-called "fake" accounts were created because FB is way too pervy, wanting to know enough information about you that they can sell it to content aggregators.

    So one creates "fake" accounts with no real phone number attached and a generic image to stop FB from being too NSA.

    Maybe they should back off. Everyone is leaving fast because their perv-quotient is way too high.

  • Ya think, Zuck? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erp_consultant (2614861) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:26PM (#46146013)

    If Zuckerberg is publically acknowledging 10% then you can be sure it's a lot higher than that. I'd peg it at closer to 25%. But that's not the real issue. The real issue is that, due to FB's policies, legitimate users feel compelled to put in fake names, birthdates, locations, schools, employers, etc. Why? Because of FB's continued and well documented history of deceptive security practices. You cannot trust them and it's one of the main reasons I don't use facebook.

    In short, the users don't want to give up their accounts entirely (although I'm sure many have) but remain there with a fake identity. So the question then becomes: for a company like FB where almost 100% of their revenue comes from advertising how effective is it when you are advertising to zombie accounts?

    • due to FB's policies, legitimate users feel compelled to put in fake names, birthdates, locations, schools, employers, etc.

      Or in fact not put most of those in at all. Facebook is still trying to guess which continent I live on (it occasionally asks if I live in cities related to my friends list). I haven't given any info about education, work or interests (although I'm sure there's a big profile on what interests me based on what I click on).

    • by DrXym (126579)
      A simple reason not to trust them is they deliberately and continuously rearrange their privacy settings so you are never entirely sure what you are sharing and what you are not. It is not beyond the bounds of science that they could present a switch which enforces Default, Maximum or Custom security settings. Or a "please do not bug me about if I know person X or when is my birthday". But they don't do that.

      Personally I don't care much about Facebook because I only have a few placeholder accounts. Linked

      • Exactly right, Doc. This flipping around of security settings is deliberate on FB's part. They know that most of their users won't bother to go and change them back to what it was. Heck, I'd be willing to bet that a good percentage of FB users don't even understand all the settings. A simple "Opt Out" option is conspicuously absent. They make it hard to delete things by making you choose them one at a time, with no Select All functionality.

        I use LinkedIn because it helps me professionally. The one thing tha

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "between 5.5 percent and 11.2 percent of these users were fake."

    I assume they are just counting the entire Los Angeles population right? ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Too many sites are converting to Facebook for comments, so I participate with my fake account.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:47PM (#46146103)

    They'll use 11.2% when valuating their user base to dodge as much tax as possible and 5.5% to push up the price they charge advertisers.

  • Not mine (Score:5, Funny)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:53PM (#46146145)

    I'm a 104 year old man born in Antarctica currently residing in the North Sentinel Islands. I graduated from Columbine High School at the age of 1 and went to Miskatonic University in Arkham Massachusetts.

  • Half of all comments on any given status by a celebrity or famous page will be "I work from home and make millions!"

  • by s.petry (762400) on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:39PM (#46146389)

    Facebook counts the profiles of persons no longer on the planet, people that have created a page and not been there since, and people that have tried to "quit" their site for as long as I can remember. When people want something to look a certain way, they hire statisticians to make it look that way.

    There was a report last year that Facebook had 1.2 billion people signed on, which is laughable. The largest populations in the world (India and China) do not have a majority that can use the internet, hundreds of millions in other countries are banned from this (most of Africa and the Middle East), and other people just don't give a shit (majority of Eastern Europe).

    I'm pretty sure another report near the same time claimed that 50% of the accounts on FB were not people at all. Some of that 50% were companies, and a big chunk went to sock puppets, trolls, and scams.

    I'm guessing that is why FB decided to try and make themselves look "good", but people are still going to leave. If you are not a security minded old codger like me, FB is no longer "hip" and "cool".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:42PM (#46146403)

    (Posted anonymously to protect my male identity.)

    I'm a transgendered individual, and I maintain my original Facebook profile in my real name, and a separate Facebook profile in my femme name. The two profiles are not connected. I use neither of them for troll or spam purposes, but merely to reflect the two different halves of "me," and I don't consider either one to be "fake." I've little doubt, however, that Facebook would think of my femme profile as "fake," though it's backed with real friends, real photos, and mostly-valid personal data that I've entered, albeit with a gender of "female."

    If Facebook is really considering relaxing being so fussy about "real identities," it can only help me and others like me.

  • by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:13PM (#46146919)

    If you’re always under the pressure of real identity, I think that is somewhat of a burden.

    Exactly. That's why I post here so often as Anonymous Coward.

    • by HalAtWork (926717)
      I don't even understand what he means by "the pressure of real identity", this just sounds like a statement designed to manipulate.
    • by antdude (79039)

      So, you didn't post AC for this post? ;)

      • What's the use of having a real identity like "TheloniousToady" if you don't stick your neck out a little every now and then? ;-)

  • Identity? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by niw3 (1029008) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:14PM (#46146937)
    My wife's account with her real name closed arbitrarily by facebook together with her somewhat popular pages and groups. Reason: fake account. She scanned and sent her id and everything. Only response from facebook says this decision is final and cannot be reversed. So I am saying, fuck your policies Mark.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "She scanned and sent her id and everything."

      Did it ever occur to you that was the entire point of them canceling her account--verification that the data they did have was real, and not fake?

      Yahoo just last week did something similar--they tricked people into verifying which accounts were active by announcing a data breach and requiring people to change their passwords. The moment you did so, they were able to refresh their data on you, as well as add any info about new devices you might be using, as well a

  • Most of the people I know have FB accounts, and probably 50% of them are "fake" by FB's policies. Most of us won't use our real names. In my case, it's because there is exactly 1 person on this planet with my name (yes I've tried to find more; there aren't any). Since I don't trust FB to not do stupid things with my data, I lie about my name. The rest of the data is real.

    My friends are in the same boat - they lie about their names, but the rest is real. Does it really matter to FB if John Smith goers by Jim

  • Sure, people should be allowed to be anonymous, but it should never be okay to pose as someone else, fictive or real.

    All real-looking accounts should be real, and a special type of accounts should be created for anonymous following of sensitive topics, commenting etc. This way you could have a personal account for family, old classmates etc and an anonymous account (personal of course) for all the sensitive stuff.

  • One normal account, and another one who isn't friends with the normal one to check all the privacy and search settings, because I don't trust Facebook...

    ugh, remind me why I have a normal account again?

  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @05:37AM (#46148099)
    There is fake as in pseudonym, fake as in sockpuppet / troll and fake as in bot. Some people have legitimate reasons for wishing to remain anonymous while still being a real person behind that name. e.g. maybe someone is a victim of rape or domestic violence, or a political dissident, or simply values their personal privacy while wishing to use a network to collate their interests. Is it really that hard for Facebook to challenge a user in a manner which would confound a bot but verify there is a human on the other side? Is it really that hard for Facebook to establish a level of "trust" that the human is not some idiot troll or otherwise engaged in antisocial activity based on their posts?

    Aside from that, some people enjoy anonymity simply by virtue of having a common name. I bet there are millions of real John Smiths who can hide in plain sight simply by virtue of their name. Yet someone with the unfortunate name Ammonia Bumblebee would be instantly and uniquely identifiable.

    Anyway, I notice Facebook are pushing real identities more and some sites are requiring users sign on with a "verified" real account. But their manner of authentication is incredibly weak - provide a mobile telephone number. It is trivial to obtain a sim in many countries. e.g. in the UK every Poundland sells SIMs at the counter. Throw it into an old phone, use it to register on Facebook as "real", wait for the authentication code, and away you go. Pretty stupid really.

  • Fake accounts? Come on. I got sick when I saw high school students and then all kinds of random people being able to sign up to facebook. In the early days of Facebook, around 2003-2005, the Facebook used to be social network equivalent of slashdot. Only people with valid university accounts could sign up, and that sort of raised the bar for the social circles you're in. For the most part, these were the people you interact with in real life, as well as their friends, at best. Now days, a bunch of vampires

  • ...its just a matter of exactly how fake they are. If you think the way people portray themselves online is 100% accurate, or that all those folks are really your friends, you have some serious issues with reality.
  • I have two facebook accounts, one my real name, one a pseudonym. Both of them: ARE ME!
    The second one I only have because I use an iPad app that requires a FB account to be used. I'm not so retarded to use my 'real name' account for that.
    But surely there are true fake accounts, used for data mining etc.
    Most children I know have "fake accounts" with an older brother/sister or a celebrity as photo and a fake age: even 6 year old girls are smart enough to tell me: if you put your real age on FB, "you get troubl

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