The Financial Times reported yesterday that Facebook removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone. This number represents nearly half of the active users on this platform. User accounts are the basis for ad sales, which account for nearly all of a site’s revenue. And if this massive percentage of accounts are fake, advertisers have the right to demand a discount on the value of their ads.
Over the past two years, Facebook removed at least a billion fake accounts every quarter, most of them removed once they were created.
This number does not include all fake accounts. In filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the site admits that up to 5 percent of 2.8 billion accounts may be fake, and another 11 percent may be duplicate. This means that there are over 448 million untrusted accounts.
Sales were up 22 percent last year, but the targeted advertising model is under pressure. Apple will soon introduce a new feature that will make it easier for users to stop providing third-party data that will facilitate personalized ads.
There are two possible repercussions for fake accounts. The first is that advertisers can use them to demand lower advertising rates, and the second is slow growth in Facebook’s revenue.