Bad news for all of you with fake names on Facebook, or Facebook accounts for your cockatoo or cocker spaniel -- Facebook's latest filing shows that 83 million monthly active users on Facebook are fake accounts, and the company swears they're going to do something about it.
In last week's quarterly earning report, Facebook boasted that they have a staggering 955 million monthly active users. Then they admitted that 83 million of these monthly active users are fake Facebook accounts, meaning that 8.7% of Facebook accounts are fake names, not human beings, or just malicious bots that artificially inflate numbers or spread harmful viruses.
BBC News breaks down the fake Facebook accounts to find that half of these (45 million) are duplicate accounts -- people who keep one account for their real name and another for a fake name, or just forgot their login credentials and created another new account instead.
Of the other half, 23 million are classified as "misclassified" -- that is, these accounts are affiliated with businesses, web sites, or domestic pets. They are "misclassified" as actual human beings in the Facebook database, and Facebook would prefer that users establish accounts as Fan pages or Groups.
The remaining 14 million fake accounts are deemed "undesirable", and they're the genuine bad guys. Facebook says these undesirable accounts are "intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming." They're also intended for other malicious purposes, like inflating the number of "Likes" a company receives, or spreading links that contain malicious viruses.
Why does this even matter? What's so bad about having a Facebook account under the name "Bigbooty Judy" if you're a schoolteacher who doesn't want the kids to find out about your night job as an exotic dancer?
Facebook tries to be pretty rigorous about disabling fake name accounts, and they will suspend accounts they suspect are showing fake user names. They will send you a stern-sounding message saying, "Your account is temporarily suspended because your profile (timeline) doesn’t list your real name. Facebook is a community where people use their real identities."
Facebook feels this disrupts their business model, because most of their revenue comes from ads. These ads are "targeted", meaning the company collects data about what you post and like on Facebook, and then displays advertisements that are customized to your interests. If the data on your profile is not actually true, then the advertisements are not going to be geared toward your actual interests. Advertisers might notice this, and take their dollars elsewhere.
A recent BBC expose on Facebook Likes found that a paid advertising campaigns aimed at the US and UK produced Likes that were primarily from 13-17 year-olds from India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.