While I was not surprised at all by Facebook stating that "8.7 percent of accounts belonging to its 955 million monthly active users are fake"; link is a news story that providers a summary of their statements and a link to the source of those statements, Facebook's full 10-Q report.

Here's the thing though, to me it seems like identifying fake accounts would be easy, what would be hard would assigning a value of authenticity to a given account.

Has Facebook publicly stated how they are identifying accounts as "fake" or real? If not, how would this be done?

  • I'd imagine it's based on statistical analysis of activity associated with accounts (account played farmville is less likely to be a like bot...), however unless facebook actually publishes their methodology I would just say the figures quotes are just as likely to be pure fiction. Even if not, there is likely some flaws in the methodology somewhere. – ewanm89 Aug 4 '12 at 15:47
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    The full report has a lot of "we estimate" "may have" and similar phrases in the one paragraph related to false accounts. – ewanm89 Aug 4 '12 at 15:51
  • @ewanm89: Agree, sounds fishy to me too. That said, there must be some way to do this and understand the accuracy of a authenticity rating given to an account; meaning seems like this would be related to topics such as the detection of fraud, intrusion, etc. – blunders Aug 4 '12 at 16:08

Facebook relied on user generated "abuse reports" as leads for identity investigation. Meaning, you can report a suspicious account and it will be review by FB team (I`m guessing we are talking about log checks, "believable" friend pool and etc)

They got no automatic policy for account identification besides the following:

Feature overuse: Simply Checking the rate of usage for features (i.e. Too many messages/reoccurring content)

Unwanted contact: High "deny friendship" rates/repeat "friendship request" are deemed suspicious.

I actually think they got the right idea here, as behavior-based challenges are probably the best way to find fake FB users.

There are maybe few other things you can do (having a a "suspicious contact pool" signature for example and some Bot challenges like JS/Header and others) but, for me, the main issue here is their Enforcing Policy. Currently, you have to work pretty hard to get banned from FB, and in the end - with all of their cash flow problems - a large user base is still Facebook's main claim-2-fame and I don`t see them messing with it any time soon.

As for the numbers, I`m assuming they've just based on an avg. or previous fake/real user statistics.

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