Facebook deletes billions of fake accounts in 2019

On Wednesday, Facebook reported that it has deactivated 5.4 billion fake accounts since the beginning of the year. The figure represents a 64 percent increase over the total number of accounts removed in 2018. Still, the company states in its newest transparency report that up to 5 percent of its 2.5 billion monthly users could be fake accounts. 

Much of Facebook’s success in this area is attributable to recent technological improvements. The platform has been capturing more fake accounts as they are created and reducing the spread of misinformation. 

With the 2016 election meddling still fresh, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to face questions on the security and reliability of the platform. He has made more of an effort to engage with the public and wants other tech leaders to do the same. However, it is unlikely that he will leave the hot seat anytime soon with the 2020 election around the corner. 

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Facebook’s Broader Enforcement Efforts

Facebook has been cracking down on a variety of platform abuses over the last several years. Outside of shutting down billions of fake accounts, Facebook has also removed content related to many sensitive issues. This year alone, the company took down 3 million posts in violation of Facebook’s policies around selling drugs.

Hate speech has also been a cleansing target. In three months, the platform removed 7 million instances of hate speech, of which over 80 percent never reached other users. The company now has dedicated hate speech algorithms that can identify and automatically remove prohibited content.

Zuckerberg seems to be open to ideas on how Facebook can enforce safe and secure usage of its platform more effectively. In September, the tech mogul made a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and legislatures. Zuckerberg also met with civil rights leaders last Monday to discuss how the platform should handle political ads and divisive language more broadly. 

Instagram also in the Spotlight

Facebook’s war on misinformation also now extends to Instagram. The company recently removed nearly 100,000 pieces of Instagram content in violation of the platform’s gun sale policies. Additionally, Instagram addressed issues related to child exploitation, terrorist propaganda, and suicide.

An executive recently affirmed that Instagram is taking advantage of Facebook’s enforcement capabilities. The statement is no doubt in response to calls from politicians for Facebook to get dismantled. Zuckerberg and others have characterized Facebook’s size and resources as advantages in addressing such large-scale content issues. 

Implications for 2020

Next year, social media platforms will be under even more scrutiny given what’s at stake in 2020. Next year’s presidential election will be a major test for Facebook on how well the platform can control harmful content and foreign interference.

The U.S. is also conducting a census, which occurs every 10 years. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has made it clear that the social media platform will fight misinformation on this front as well. “We’re going to treat next year’s Census like an election—with people, policies, and technology in place to protect against Census interference.” 

Zuckerberg wants the public to know how seriously his company is taking its responsibility. Time will tell if Facebook can win the hearts of users again after a rough season.

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