“We also seek to identify “false” accounts, which we divide into two categories: (1) user-misclassified accounts, where users have created personal profiles for a business, organization, or non-human entity such as a pet (such entities are permitted on Facebook using a Page rather than a personal profile under our terms of service); and (2) undesirable accounts, which represent user profiles that we determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming. As of June 30, 2012, we estimate user-misclassified accounts may have represented approximately 2.4% of our worldwide MAUs and undesirable accounts may have represented approximately 1.5% of our worldwide MAUs.”
You might have heard that Facebook’s stock price hasn’t been doing so well in response to their earnings report, yet I expect that Facebook will do very little to quell their shadow network of redundant and spammy accounts. Here’s why:
The Selena Gomez Problem
TMZ (of all places) ran a piece on a girl named Selena Gomez who was suspended from Facebook for impersonating the Disney star and Bieber muse. The problem being that at least two sets of Gomez parents decided to name their daughter, “Selena.” Sadly, the disambiguated Selena Gomez can no longer tend to her Farmville farm and TMZ has taken up her cause.
This seems to indicate that Facebook can’t quite zero in on their target, and while it’s an outlying example it is also probably not isolated. For Facebook to try in earnest to delete all of their problematic accounts they could create a public relations disaster. And while a public relations disaster is never welcome, one imagines it would be even less welcome in Facebook’s current environment.
The Limited Run / BBC Problem
The BBC ran a similar (but less targeted) experiment and found that many of the people liking their accounts were likely fake.
There is a very good probability that Facebook’s revenue is benefited by having this shadow network of spammers clicking on Facebook advertising, despite the relative ineffectiveness of the ads.
The problem with the fix
The real problem for Facebook doing anything to fix their false accounts is that it opens a Pandora’s box. If click-through is being inflated by bot accounts, then one would assume revenue to decrease and exposure to lawsuits for charging advertisers for phantom clicks. And the issue with trying to fix even the more mundane issues like duplicate accounts, pet accounts, celebrity dopplegangers is that it would likely upset a lot of users.
Facebook is spending a lot of resources to fix its advertising product, which appears to be working (to some degree). The most likely tact that Facebook will take will be to address this problem will be to do it a little bit at a time. In this scenario, advertising revenues would increase and wayward accounts would be reported with slight decrease each quarter.
But given the financial ramifications of a project like this, expect the Selena Gomezes to be booted before the spammers. And don’t expect there to be too much movement on this front when Facebook release its third quarter results.