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Facebook says it took down 2.2 billion fake accounts in 2019

Daniel Howley
·Technology Editor
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Facebook (FB) on Thursday announced that it deleted 2.2 billion, yes billion with a “b”, fake accounts in the first quarter of 2019. As part of its Community Standards Enforcement Report (CSER), Facebook also said it deleted 1.2 billion fraudulent accounts in Q4 2018.

“This is due to an increase in automated attacks by bad actors who try to create a large amount of accounts at once,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained during a conference call following the release of the report.

The accounts, which Facebook said may have been deleted before users ever saw them, show the company is still besieged by groups and individuals trying to create fake profiles.

While the majority of these accounts are stopped before people can interact with them, Facebook’s VP of integrity Guy Rosen pointed out that roughly 5% of monthly active Facebook accounts are fake. Still, with 2.38 billion active user accounts as of March 2019, that works out to 119 million fake accounts on the social network.

How Facebook stops bogus accounts

In a blog post, Facebook’s VP of analytics, Alex Schultz, explained the company can use a variety of methods to identify fake accounts before they go live. For example, the social networking giant can see if users are trying to sign up with suspicious email accounts and if they are trying to create several accounts from a single IP address.

In his post, Schultz attributed the high number of removed accounts to the fact that fraudsters may try to create up to 1 million accounts at a time. When that happens, Facebook’s detection systems kick in and recognize that someone is trying to build out a network of fraudulent accounts.

The company also includes the number of existing accounts that are taken down in its count of phony profiles. Those accounts, Schultz explains, are largely detected by Facebook and culled before they receive user complaints about them.

Logo of Facebook is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Logo of Facebook is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. (Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau)

Facebook’s CSER provides the company with a means to try to show how it’s actively working to fight back against the number of bad actors who seek to use the platform for their own means.

In addition to the number of accounts Facebook removed, the report also points to items like how the company is doing with regards to identifying and taking down hate speech, adult imagery, and drugs and firearms sales.

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook’s systems identified 65% of hate speech on the platform before users reported it. The systems also caught 83% of drug sales and deleted them before they were reported.

Zuckerberg further explained that Facebook is still working on an independent oversight board that will look at content posted on the social network to determine if it violates the company’s speech guidelines. Since the CEO said he doesn’t want to be the final arbiter of speech on the site, the board will have the final say — and even Zuckerberg won’t be able to appeal it.

Facebook is grappling with a seemingly endless stream of negative headlines related to how it deals with user data, as well as its response to issues like hate speech, violence and political interference from foreign adversaries.

U.S. legislators are currently looking into regulations that would protect user data similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. However, it remains to be seen when that legislation will be passed.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at@DanielHowley. Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, andLinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/