How Facebook Is Hunting Down And Deleting Fake Accounts

carolyn everson facebook
Facebook’s Everson

[credit provider=”Michael Seto / BI”]

Earlier this year, in its Q2 2012 earnings report, Facebook disclosed that 4.8 per cent of its accounts were either “duplicate” accounts (meaning that one person was operating more than one profile) or being used for nefarious purposes that violate Facebook’s rules.In Q3, however, Facebook didn’t give an update on its efforts to drive down the rate of fake accounts — and the fake “Likes” that they seem to generate.

Facebook’s war against fakes is a work in progress, it seems. The company is due to report new numbers after Dec. 31.

The fake like/fake account issue has been a years long headache at Facebook. Even though the actual rate of questionable activity on Facebook is a small percentage of its entire traffic, it harms the social network’s reputation.

Facebook has been sued over invalid clicks in the past. There are persistent reports of fake likes coming from the accounts of deceased friends. The system has had flaws in it in the past that have inflated the number of likes on a page. And in August, Facebook began a purge of fake accounts and the likes they generated.

So we asked Facebook’s vp/global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson what Facebook is doing to kill fake accounts. It turns out that Facebook is hunting down accounts and users on an individual basis, rather than en masse via some sort of algorithm. And they’re targeting the obvious villains first.

Here’s what she told us.

BI: What is the situation with the fake users and duplicate accounts rate? I know you were working on that certainly in the first part of the year, but you didn’t update it in Q3. Is that under control now?

CE: It is very much under control now. It’s something we monitor vigilantly. We have user operations teams based in India, in Dublin, in California and Austin that are constantly monitoring. We want to ensure that one of the core tenets of Facebook is that you have your unique identity on Facebook.

BI: Where are these people coming from? I don’t understand what the point of it is.

CE: There were certain pockets of the world where this was more prevalent in some of the emerging markets, which by the way, is not dissimilar to what happened with search when search first launched. There were a lot of fake clicks happening. It is something the industry at large deals with. This isn’t a FB-specific issue. If anything, we have an advantage because we are a true identity platform so we can quickly figure out if anyone is their true self on Facebook.

BI: Does that mean, though, that you will be deleting, for instance, the Facebook page that might apparently be run by my dog?

CE: We have not specifically gone to target people that have started pages for their dogs. What we are looking for is people who have widespread fake user ID accounts to make sure we take them out of the system. We call them bad actors and that’s how we identify them.