Facebook has removed over three billion fake accounts from October to March, twice as many as the previous six months, the social networking company said on Thursday.
Almost everyone was caught before they had the chance to become "active" users.
In a new report, Facebook said it had seen a "sharp increase" in the creation of fake and abusive accounts in the last six months. While most of these fake accounts were blocked "within minutes" of their creation, the company said that this increase in "automatic attacks" by bad actors meant not only that it captured more false accounts, but that others of them they slipped through the cracks.
As a result, the company estimates that 5% of its 2.4 billion monthly active users are fake accounts. This figure has risen from three to four percent in the previous six months, when Facebook has blocked 1.5 billion accounts.
The increase in removals shows the challenges Facebook faces in removing computer-generated accounts to spread spam, false news and other questionable material. While the Facebook tracking tools improve, even the creators' efforts at these fake accounts.
The new numbers arrive when the company is grappling with a challenge after the other, from false news to Facebook's role in electoral interference, hate speeches and hate speech violence in the United States, Myanmar (Burma), India and elsewhere.
Facebook also said on Thursday it removed more than seven million posts, photos and other material because it violated the rules against hate speech.
Facebook takes thousands to review posts, photos, comments and videos for violations. Some things are also detected without humans, using artificial intelligence. Both humans and artificial intelligence make mistakes, and Facebook has been blamed for political bias, as well as removals for injured pills that discuss – rather than promote – racism.
Facebook states that the accounts were blocked quickly
Managing Director Mark Zuckerberg requested that the government regulation decide which content should be considered harmful and on other issues. But at least in the United States, the regulation of the government's speech could encounter obstacles of the First Amendment.
A thorny problem for Facebook is the lack of identity authentication procedures for those who create accounts. Only in cases where a user has been disconnected from the service and won an appeal to be reinstated does he request to see the identity documents.
While some have argued for more rigorous authentication on social media services, the problem is thorny. People, including UN rapporteur David Kaye, say it is important to allow online pseudonym speech for human rights activists and other people whose lives could otherwise be endangered.
Of the 3.4 billion accounts removed in the six-month period, 1.2 billion came in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. More than 99% of these were deactivated before anyone reported them to the company. Facebook says most of the fake accounts have been blocked "within minutes" of their creation.
Facebook has attributed the peak in accounts removed to "automatic attacks by bad actors trying to create large volumes of accounts simultaneously". The company refused to tell where these attacks came from, only that they came from different parts of the world.