The social network’s filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that more than 83 million profiles (8.7 per cent of its monthly active user base) are actually false and in violation of its terms of service.
Facebook said that “duplicate” accounts, which a user maintains in addition to his or her principal account, may have represented up to 4.8 per cent of its monthly active users.
It also revealed that about 2.4 per cent of its active users are actually mis-classified accounts, which people have created for a business, organisation or a pet rather than using a page.
Approximately 1.5 per cent of its monthly active users were found to be “undesirable” accounts that are deliberately intended to be used to violate its terms of service for uses such as spamming.
Facebook says the percentage of fake accounts are “meaningfully lower” in developed markets such as the US and Australia, compared with developing markets such as Indonesia and Turkey.
The company adds: “We are continually seeking to improve our ability to identify duplicate or false accounts and estimate the total number of such accounts, and such estimates may be affected by improvements or changes in our methodology.”
The revelations could have a major impact on Facebook, which relies on advertisers for the bulk of its revenue. Brands could now be more wary about paying to place ads on Facebook if the social network cannot prove their spots are actually reaching a real targeted audience.
The news comes a week after digital distribution company Limited Run carried out analysis on its Facebook advertising and found that 80 per cent of the clicks on its ads had come from “bots”, through its own analysis.
Limited Run’s post about its analysis went viral and the company has now decided to delete its Facebook page. Facebook says it is in contact with Limited Run and will look into the issues it has had.
The debate into the value of Facebook to marketers has heated up in recent months. Doubts have been cast over the effectiveness of its ad formats such as Reach Generator, which “guarantees” page posts will be seen by at least 75% of a brand’s fans – the revelations about false accounts are likely to heighten concern.
Facebook has attempted to defend itself against critics with a series of case studies.
Andy Pang, Facebook’s EMEA head of customer market insights, also recently told marketers not to get “too hung up on CTR”.