How many fake accounts are there on Facebook?
This has been a key question for advertisers looking to optimize their platform performance. While Facebook offers unmatched potential reach - with more than 2.5 billion active users worldwide - a common criticism has been that a lot of those profiles are fakes, which reduces trust in Facebook's reach numbers.
And definitely, there are fake profiles on the platform - but how many, exactly, has fluctuated over time, based on Facebook's own reporting.
Back in 2018, Facebook said that its fake account percentage was around 4% of its MAU count, which, at that stage, equated to 88 million fake profiles. That figure was far lower than Facebook's 2012 fake estimate of 9%, and 11% in 2013. In 2018, Facebook said that it had been able to reduce the prevalence of fake accounts due to its advanced detection and removal efforts, which saw it remove 583 million fake accounts in one quarter, in response to the evolving need for more action on this front.
Which is impressive, but not as impressive as this - in the last year, Facebook has taken down 6.6 billion fake accounts. It's safe to say that The Social Network has significantly upped its systems on this front.
The reason for this, according to Facebook's engineering team, is an advanced machine learning system called Deep Entity Classification (DEC), which is able to better detect fake profiles based on a broader range of attributes and behaviors.
As explained by CNet:
"[The system analyzes] not only the accounts that are active on Facebook, but also each individual profile's behavior and interaction with the rest of the community. Facebook's engineers refer to the "deep features" of each account, which are the behavioral patterns of profiles, rather than the direct characteristics of an account. In other words, instead of only registering details like the creation date of an account or the number of friend requests it has sent, DEC also looks at all of the properties of the profiles, groups or pages that a particular user has made contact with."
This more advanced system, implemented, at least in part, due to the bigger push for action against fake profiles in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential Election, has enabled Facebook to be more proactive than ever in removing fakes.
The key to this improved detection system is its complexity, in understanding how each profile is being used, and identifying patterns aligned with inauthentic behavior. Facebook says that the process maps tens of thousands of data points on each profile, making it very difficult to reverse engineer - though interestingly, despite all of this, Facebook says that, right now, the platform's fake profile percentage still sits at 5%.
That means, at Facebook's current size, there are still 125 million fake accounts on the platform.
That seems odd, right? As noted, back in 2018, when Facebook last updated its fake presence, it was 4%, or 88 million profiles - and that was before this more advanced system had been put in place, when Facebook was removing only a fraction of the amount of fake profiles it's now detecting.
Whether it's due to more scammers targeting the platform, or Facebook's improved systems detecting more fake accounts, the current number is 125m fakes. Logically, you would assume that, really, Facebook's just got better at detecting them, which has upped the count - but with that in mind, the figure could still be higher than 5%. It just depends on how good Facebook's systems are at weeding them out.
But as of right now, Facebook's official fake account level is 5% of 2.5 billion accounts, and its systems for detection are improving each day. Realistically, there will always be a level of fakes on the platform, and 5% seems a reasonable amount - and with Facebook's processes evolving, it should help to improve trust in its reach integrity.
Depending on how you look at it.