A recent report from the legal research group Plainsite claims that as many as half of Facebook’s users are fake.
A report from Aaron Greenspan of the legal research initiative Plainsite claims that as many as half of the users on the social media platform Facebook are in fact fake accounts. Greenspan’s report alleges that Facebook has lied to the public about just how large the site’s fake news problem is, how many bot accounts exist on the platform and that the company has “lost control of its own product.”
Greenspan writes that the world has changed significantly since Facebook’s founding and that despite Silicon valley’s optimism, the company is facing huge issues:
What seems too good to be true often is. The zeitgeist has changed markedly since 2007, when the company was the obsession of virtually every Silicon Valley investor, having built its Platform to make the world “more open and connected.” Yet as bad as things have been of late for Facebook, with endless privacy breaches and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election hanging over Menlo Park like a spectre, we believe that the situation is far worse than investors realize. Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics—many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly—are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.
Greenspan further explains the effects of fake accounts operating on the platform and how this can affect not just the public perception of Facebook, but could damage investors also:
Fake accounts affect Facebook at its core in numerous ways:
Its customers purchase advertising on Facebook based on the fact that it can supposedly target advertisements at more than 2 billion real human beings. To the extent that users aren’t real, companies are throwing their money down the drain.
Fake accounts click on advertising at random, or “like” pages, to throw off anti-fraud algorithms. Fake accounts look real if they do not follow a clear pattern. This kind of activity defrauds advertisers, but rewards Facebook with revenue.
Fake accounts often defraud other users on Facebook, through scams, fake news, extortion, and other forms of deception. Often, they can involve governments.
Greenspan notes that while Facebook has long prioritized user growth and expansion over everything else, the company is failing to generate new users in recent years. Greenspan alleges that Facebook is currently only being kept afloat by millions of fake bot accounts inflating user metrics:
Preaching that programmers should “move fast and break things,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg has clarified over time that growth at any cost is his only priority. But documents recently revealed show that since 2012, management has worried about where it can find more warm bodies to sign on. Fake accounts have been keeping the company that Columbia professor Tim Wu has called an “attention merchant” afloat. The cost of Zuckerberg’s dissembling, dating all the way back to 2004, has accrued, and is finally coming due. Accordingly, it is increasingly likely that Facebook will go the way of AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy—if legal liability doesn’t bankrupt it first.
Read the full report by Greenspan at Plainsite here.