updated 12:10 pm EDT, Thu August 2, 2012
Duplicate, misclassified, undesirable accounts near 10 percent
According to Facebook's own numbers, nearly 10 percent of the accounts on the social network are "fake" in some manner. This according to Facebook's 10-Q, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last night. Most of the company's fake accounts are duplicates, but the revelation lends credence to accusations from some sectors that Facebook has a problem with fraudulent accounts aimed at spreading malware and driving up ad clicks.
Facebook estimates the total number of fake accounts at 8.7 percent, or 83.1 million of its 955 million global user total. Duplicate profiles account for 4.8 percent of Facebook's user base, while 2.4 percent are user-misclassified accounts. User-misclassified accounts are profiles set up for businesses, organizations, and non-human entities such as pets. About 1.5 percent of Facebook's total accounts are thought to be "undesirable accounts."
The new figure represents an increase over the numbers Facebook reported in March. At that time, Facebook said 5 to 6 percent of its accounts were false or duplicate.
The increase in the number of fake accounts is important because it affects the overall perception of the social network. Should advertisers come to believe that Facebook is overrun with fake accounts, it would call into question the efficacy of Facebook's ad platform. Already, some allege that a majority of their ad click-throughs are driven by automated, fraudulent accounts.
A loss of advertiser confidence in the Facebook model would be disastrous for the company, as it draws the majority of its revenue from advertising. The social network is already experiencing difficulties in adapting its model to the mobile Internet era, as its ad platform is much more unwieldy on the smaller screens seen on mobile devices. The company's 10-Q also revealed that 102 million users accessed the social network in June only from mobile devices.