Facebook reported stellar Q3 earnings last week, despite a number of controversies on its home-front – including discussions on its role in disseminating Russian propaganda in the US and its role in spreading fake news during the US election – and abroad, such as a test for new features that would cripple organic reach.
But quite a worrying detail was buried in the fine print of the earnings report – the social network had increased its estimate of the portion of fake accounts from 2 to 3% and the number of duplicates from 6 to 10%, meaning that a staggering 270 million users on Facebook do not exist in reality. This is about double what was previously reported, and would amount to more than the population of Indonesia, and just shy of the US population.
Facebook said the change was due to better tools for tracking illegitimate activity rather than a sudden spike in suspicious sign-ups. Unlike other social media platforms, Facebook is notoriously strict when it comes to profile creation, in some cases even requiring official identification documents as proof of identity.
Moreover, this is not the first time Facebook finds itself admitting to dodgy numbers. In November 2016, Facebook reported that video views had been inflated by as much as 30% and has faced multiple claims of misreporting ad metrics in the past.