Facebook's Basic Premise Under Threat By Widespread Fakery

Mark Zuckerberg black and white

At a conference for aspiring entrepreneurs last month, Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg said the first distinct feature that put Facebook on its path to becoming a successful product was its requirement that new users join with their “.edu” college email address.

This way, Facebook could verify that the new users were who they said they were.

Mark Zuckerberg said the thing that has always set Facebook apart from most other social networks is that its members use their real identities on the network.

Today, The New York Times says that is the “basic premise” of Facebook.

Citing several pieces of anecdotal evidence, the Times says that basic premise is under threat.

The Times says Facebook is suddenly plagued with fake profiles, fake friends, fake “likes,” and fake coupons “for meals and gadgets.”

Facebook is aware of the problem. In its SEC filing to go public, Facebook said almost 9 per cent of its users are fake. That’s 80 million+ people.

Security boss Joe Sullivan tells the Times: “It’s pretty much one of the top priorities for the company all the time.”

He says Facebook has 150 to 300 people fighting fakes and working on a solution. Progress so far: Facebook created new partnerships with seven security firms in October, raising its total to 15. In September, pages across Facebook saw a dip in “likes” as the network eradicated some fake users.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that Facebook remain a place where, mostly, people feel like they should use their real accounts. 

Facebook built its value as a Website: Facebook.com.

But while Websites aren’t going away, they are already becoming less valuable.

KPCB partner Mary Meeker says that by the end of the decade, more people will access the Internet via mobile than the do the desktop Web.

During Facebook’s last earnings call, Zuckerberg pointed out that the most valuable thing it owns is something it can transport from a desktop user-interface to mobile: the network of users it owns.

It’s a network of people that Facebook hopes to derive value from by opening it to third-parties — from advertisers to developers. If that network is suddenly a fraud — well then so is Facebook.

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