Facebook said it cracked down on billions of fake accounts this year. While Facebook says its ability to 'detect and block' attempts to create fake and abusive accounts has been improved, it also claims it prevents millions of attempts from creating fake accounts every day using its advanced detection systems. By deleting accounts in such huge numbers, Facebook seems to have finally realised the importance of keeping the platform clean. Here's why Facebook is cracking down on fake accounts and why it is important.
Facebook has been mired in controversies regarding privacy and security of its users, it's now almost every other day that we hear about a Facebook contoversy. While Facebook may have a broad set of immunity under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act over the user-generated content on the platform (meaning, Facebook cannot be held liable or accountable for content its users publish on the platform), experts believe certain content moderation policies must be in place to ensure the user-generated content doesn't pose any kind of threat to the fabric of a democracy or influence elections worldwide.
Facebook was severely criticised for its involvement with Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based data analytics firm that closed its operations in 2018 following the series of investigations reported globally. The investigation revealed how users’ data, such as likes on Facebook posts, were used to meddle with the 2016 United States presidential election. There's also a Netflix original documentary on the subject called The Great Hack.
Over the past several months, Facebook has come under intense scrutiny over the series of data safety and privacy concerns raised against the social media company.
The motive behind fake accounts is no longer limited to impersonation or fraud. Fake accounts lead to even more serious problems like fake news and disinformation spreading on the platform. Post Cambridge Analytica controversy, Facebook came to realise detection and take-down of such accounts that are spreading disinformation as part of coordinated campaigns with political or social agendas.
As per the Facebook transparency report, government requests for user data have reached an all-time high. Governments requests for Facebook user data rose 16 per cent to 128,617 in the first half of this year. Facebook said it received 50,741 requests from the US for information regarding 82,461 accounts. Two-thirds of these requests were processed without users' knowledge.
"We always scrutinise every government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid," Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said in an online post about the latest figures.
For the first time ever, Facebook also included Instagram in its transparency report. It also talks about Facebook's fight against terror, hate speech, suicide, child porn, and drug-related posts.
Facebook says it removed about 320 crores fake accounts from April to September. Interestingly, bogus accounts were far more than the actual number of (hopefully, genuine) users Facebook reports regularly, which is 245 crores. However, Facebook estimates that out those 245 crores accounts, 5 per cent of accounts are bogus.
Facebook also said it cracked down on 1.85 crores instances of child nudity and sexual exploitation from its main platform in the April-September period. Meanwhile, Instagram removed 13 lakh instances of child nudity and child sexual exploitation during the reported period.
Facebook also pulled the plug on 1.14 crores instances of hate speech during the period. In March, the deadly terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people was live-streamed on Facebook. In September, Facebook said its automated systems remove the content glorifying the Islamic State group and al-Qaida before it’s reported.
(With agency inputs)