On the heels of escalating scepticism about the value of Facebook advertising, the company has revealed that more than 83 million of its 955 million users may be fakes.
In filings submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it estimated that some 8.7 per cent of its user base might not be legitimate; that figure includes duplicate, user-misclassified, and “undesirable” accounts.
The company provided more details about the categorisation: of its nearly one billion users, 4.8 per cent are fake accounts maintained in addition to a user’s primary account; 2.4 per cent are misclassified accounts, wherein users have falsely created accounts for businesses or other non-human entities, which should actually be represented on Facebook through Pages, not personal profiles; and 1.5 per cent of its user base is made up of “undesirable” accounts that serve up spam or otherwise breach the social network’s terms of service.
While it does not have a precise way of figuring out which accounts are dodgy, Facebook employs “reviewers” that trawl through suspicious behaviour on the site to identify fake accounts. It estimated that much of the illegitimate activity comes from developing markets, like locations in the Middle East and Asia.
In the filing, the company admitted that its advertising business, which is inextricably linked with the quantity and quality of its user base, still represents a “substantial majority” of its revenue.
"The loss of advertisers, or reduction in spending by advertisers with Facebook, could seriously harm our business,” the company said.
Earlier this week, New York-based start-up Limited Run penned a blog post detailing its plans to abandon its Facebook page. The company alleged that, based on its own analytics research, some 80 per cent of the ad clicks it was charged for by Facebook did not come from real users, meaning only 20 per cent of its advertising dollars were of any potential value.
“Facebook is in contact with us, and they’re going to look into the issues we had,” Limited Run wrote on its website, after having deleted its Facebook page.
The social network has not commented on the matter.