I've talked a lot before about fake profiles on Facebook and Twitter, about how to spot them, which of them have bought followers and how they're essentially cluttering up our channels and feeds with useless, no-value and often inappropriate content. So you know that I'm not a fan of the practice of creating fake profiles. What you may not know, is that Facebook announced early in 2015 that they were going to go after these fake accounts, remove them and make Facebook a safer place. This led to the launch of their 'real name' protocols, whereby users whose usernames seemed a little far-fetched would be advised to change them, or risk losing their access. It also led to Facebook developing facial recognition software and software that could track down profiles for family pets, which actually aren't allowed under the Facebook user agreement and could lead to you losing your own account.
For those of us with business pages, you may remember a message from Facebook in March 2015 which stated: "We’ve recently updated the way we measure how many people like your Page. Pages may see a decrease in likes after March 12 , when we [have] removed likes from inactive Facebook accounts. Over the coming weeks, Page admins should expect to see a small dip in their number of Page likes as a result of this update. It’s important to remember, though, that these removed likes represent people who were already inactive on Facebook." You may also remember losing a lot of page likes almost overnight as the 'Great Facebook Purge' took effect. In fact some pages were hit incredibly hard, a certain baby-faced Canadian singer's page lost over 3.5 million likes, which does call into question why so many 'inactive' accounts were following him in the first place.
A year on, has Facebook rid us of fake accounts entirely? Not if my recent run of friend requests is anything to go by, they haven't! The picture accompanying this blog post is a screen shot from my own personal account which shows all my recent friend requests. Now I've either come into a lot of money recently, or I'm suddenly irresistible to the opposite sex, because as you can quite clearly see all the friend requests are from women. Rather attractive young women, I might add. But unfortunately this little ego boost quickly deflates when you realise that they are all fake profiles. None of them share any mutual friends with me, they all have dubious job titles at badly-spelled companies, they're all college graduates and the vast majority of them live in suburbs of London that I have never heard of!
So I did a little digging and asked a few questions from people I knew in and around Facebook itself. I found that Facebook has around 170 million fake profiles that they are aware of, and perhaps more worryingly, admit that there may be many more that they don't know about. That figure suggests that almost 1 in 10 accounts is fake, or to put it another way, 10% of all Facebook profiles are fake. So clearly the issue still persists. The problem is so widespread that clearly the scammers and like-sellers are able to create fake profiles considerably faster than Facebook can identify and remove them. In fact, I've even seen software advertised on the internet which you can buy to create them. No doubt you've also seen the myriad of websites which offer to sell likes, which is essentially what these fake profiles are created for.
Unfortunately, it seems that as long as there are people prepared to pay for followers (followers who will never engage with them or add-value to their pages, I might add) then there will always be people prepared to create them and to make money from them.
So what can we do about it? Is Facebook doing enough to make the platform safe? Let me know what you think.