WSJ: Facebook Struggles to Count Just How Many Real Users It Has

Mark Zuckerberg
Getty/Saul Loeb

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is having a hard time dealing with users creating multiple accounts on its platform leading to issues with how the tech giant measures its audience. An internal analysis of around 5,000 recent Facebook signups indicated that at least 32 percent and as many as 56 percent of new accounts were made by existing users.

In an article titled “How Many Users Does Facebook Have? The Company Struggles to Figure It Out,” the Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is facing a growing issue of fake or multiple user accounts on its platform that is making it harder for the tech giant to measure the size of its audience.

Mark Zuckerberg CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg CEO of Facebook (Associated Press)

According to an internal Facebook presentation, the phenomenon of individuals with multiple accounts has become “very prevalent” among new accounts signing up on the platform. This finding came following an analysis of around 5,000 recent Facebook signups that indicated that at least 32 percent and as many as 56 percent of new accounts were made by existing users.

MENLO PARK, CA - APRIL 04: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California. Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MENLO PARK, CA – APRIL 04: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California. Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The presentation notes that Facebook’s tool designed to detect these accounts tends to undercount them. In another memo from May, the number of U.S. Facebook users who are in their 20s and use the platform at least once a month often appears to exceed the total population of Americans in that age bracket. The author of the memo wrote: “This brings out an elephant in the room: SUMA,” which stands for “Single User Multiple Accounts.”

The main issue this raises is the accuracy of Facebook’s ad targeting metrics. The WSJ writes:

At issue is the reliability of information that helps inform some big advertisers’ spending decisions. While Facebook says it doesn’t bill advertisers based on its estimates of an ad’s target audience, some advertisers look at those estimates when planning where to allocate their budgets—especially big brands that have turned to Facebook to reach large audiences as broadcast and cable television viewership have declined.

Potential reach metrics are “a starting point of our strategic conversation with our clients,” said Darren D’Altorio, head of social media at Wpromote, a U.S.-based digital-marketing agency. “If your goal as an advertiser is to reach the most amount of people at the lowest cost, then there would be a very real impact to that number being wrong.”

Facebook said in its most recent quarterly securities filings that it estimates 11% of its monthly active users world-wide—which totaled 2.9 billion for its flagship platform in the second quarter—are duplicate accounts, with developing markets accounting for a higher proportion of them than developed ones. On its website for advertisers, Facebook says its estimate for an ad’s audience size depends in part on the number of accounts users have, but it doesn’t quantify the impact.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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