Despite offering advertisers a ready-made audience of billions of active users, Facebook has long struggled with the issue of fake accounts and measuring its precise user base.
But the social media giant is hoping to rectify this and offer advertisers a more transparent product with its latest safety measures.
“I think the amount of our budget that goes towards our safety systems is greater than Twitter’s whole revenue this year,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg told the press last week.
It came as Facebook released the Community Standards Enforcement Report, detailing how the company dealt with safety issues between October 2018 and March 2019.
A total of 3.4 billion fake accounts and 7.3 million hate speech posts were removed from Facebook during the period, through the work of outsourced content moderators and software systems.
There was a surge in the removal of fake accounts between January and March this year, with 2.2 billion removed due to an increase in automated, scripted attacks, most of which were deleted within minutes of being created, said Facebook.
Zuckerberg outlined plans to increase the pay of moderators and offer counselling services at all times.
“It certainly has a big impact on profitability,” he said. “We’ve shifted some of our best people and best resources onto addressing these major social issues.”
But with Facebook’s ad revenue reaching $US16.6 billion ($23.94 billion) for Q4 last year, Zuckerberg is hopeful that improvements to brand safety can be “helpful on the business side”.
The widespread deletion of fake accounts, in particular, should be enticing to advertisers, with Zuckerberg and Facebook previously facing accusations of misleading advertisers about the size of the user base.
Facebook VP of analytics Alex Schultz addressed the issue.
“In addition to the questions we get about abusive fake accounts, we also get questions about fake accounts in general as it relates to advertisers getting a return on their investment with us,” he said.
“In the same way we want people to share on Facebook and we know that they will only do that if they feel safe, we also know advertisers will only continue to advertise on Facebook if they get results — and we’re continuing to deliver returns for them despite the small occurrence of fake accounts.
“We remain confident that the vast majority of people and activity on Facebook is genuine.
“We welcome feedback and scrutiny on fake accounts but are proud of our work to balance protecting the people and advertisers using our services while giving everyone the power to build community on Facebook.”
The Community Standards Enforcement Report estimates around five per cent of Facebook’s active monthly users are fake accounts, however, a recent report by Zuckerberg’s former classmate and outspoken Facebook critic Aaron Greenspan claimed that half of the social media giant’s users could be fake.