Facebook's alleged growth is largely coming from countries where Facebook says it has a fake account problem

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/23/show-your-work.html


Yes, it’s relevant.


We’re left having to take Facebook’s word for the size of its user-base.

I’m sure it’ll turn out like all of Zuckerberg’s other promises. The only thing more stupid that having a Facebook account is actively investing in the company.


Fake is a category too broad, and it might even be increased by facebook stupid policy of only accepting real names.
Facebook treat alternative accounts used to anonymize the users as fake, and the report from Plain Sight also does the same.
I’m not sure if they (and not the bot nets) are that prejudicial to advertisers if the tracking and directed ads worked as claimed.

The report also talks about duplicated accounts, but they do not provide any figure and the original accounts are mostly locked since the user does not know the password anymore.
Then it should not have a significant impact on advertising.
The number of users will be inflated, but none of them will be used to defraud the advertisers as not a single ad will be shown to them.

From the NakedCapitalism link:

Advertisers pay Facebook on the assumption that the people viewing and clicking their ads are real. But that’s often not the case.

If they do that, it is their fault for wasting their money on something like that.

Make sure you remember to use the Share button to you can let everyone on F_c_book know they’re being duped!


Anyone who bothers to do some back of the envelope math can tell you Facebook’s claims of 2.3 billion monthly users is trash. What’s disturbing is how few journalists have ever bothered to challenge it.

The world population is about 7.5 billion, so that’s your starting point.

Facebook is banned in China. There are, of course, some people who work around the ban, but not a big percentage. So that drops the possible user base to 6.5 billion.

16 percent of the world has no access to electricity. China’s electrification rate is 100%, so that won’t affect the number of people without electricity. That takes another 1.2 billion people out of the picture. That drops the possible user base to 5.3 billion.

Kids aren’t allowed to sign up for accounts. Now, some fake their age to create accounts, but the percentage isn’t that high. Worldwide 26% of the population is under 14. Let’s say that 15% of the world is kids who can’t belong to Facebook, either by policy or because they’re too young to use a device. Strike 15% of 5.3 billion, and you’re left with 4.5 billion.

Now start striking people who lack the money to afford internet service or devices, or live where service isn’t available. Strike people who are illiterate, who live in repressive regimes besides China that limit internet access, are in prison or live in refugee camps… You’re obviously striking hundreds of millions of people from the possible user base.

You quickly realize that there is simply no way Facebook has 2.3 billion monthly users. They would need to be reaching an absurdly high percentage of their possible user base to reach that number. It isn’t happening.

I can’t say how much of that inflated number is bots vs. Facebook simply wildly overcounting things like phones which automatically connect to an app. But they are unquestionably lying.


This has absolutely infuriated me over the past several years. Even a site like Recode would just parrot out twitter and Facebook’s self-reported metrics without at least caveating (is that a word?) the absurdly obvious fact that some meaningful percentage were clearly bots, fake, or duplicate accounts.
And if a tech blog wouldn’t bother to question those numbers, then they start to become part of the mainstream myth. There’s obvious financial incentives (stock price, advertising reach) for the companies to inflate their numbers, but the journalists going along with it always annoyed the hell out of me.



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