Facebook Has Removed Billions Of Fake And Hate Accounts

The social media giant removed billions of fake accounts this year, but still faces criticism over its role in the 2020 presidential election.

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Facebook claimed to have accidentally introduced the behaviour in an attempt to fix another bug.

The social media giant on Wednesday published its biannual transparency report, which details its work to combat the spread of 10 types of negative and prohibited content from the site, including sexual content, bullying and harassment and terrorist propaganda.

“We want Facebook and Instagram to be places where people can express themselves and have a voice,” the company said in the report. “To create the conditions where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, we must also preserve our community’s sense of safety, privacy, dignity and authenticity.”

Facebook also said it was beginning to remove hate speech proactively, akin to some other types prohibited content. Many fake accounts were stopped within minutes of their creation, the company said.

“We can estimate that every day, we prevent millions of attempts to create fake accounts using these detection systems,” the company wrote. “Of the accounts we actioned, the majority were caught within minutes of registration, before they became a part of our monthly active user (MAU) population.”

Despite the measures, about 5% of the company’s 2.45 billion accounts are estimated to be fake. 

The company added Instagram to its transparency review for the first time, focusing on smaller areas of moderation: child exploitation, self-harm, terrorist propaganda, and drug and weapons sales. As The Verge notes, however, Facebook did not specify how fake accounts and hate speech are regulated on the photo-sharing network.

Facebook has been under near-constant scrutiny this year, largely related to its privacy practices. The company was fined a record $5 billion over violations related to the Cambridge Analytica data breach in July, and some have called for the behemoth to be broken up so it doesn’t have so much influence.

Lawmakers have also expressed fear that the company could be used again by foreign governments to influence the 2020 election. Facebook said last month it removed a network of Russia-backed accounts posting disinformation in swing states.

Facebook released a new webpage explaining what types of content it removes, but clarified that it won’t always remove “things that are controversial or untrue.” The company recently announced it would not moderate political ads that contain outright lies.

“We want people to talk openly about the issues that matter to them. Which leads to the exchange of ideas and debate,” the company wrote. “The answer to misinformation can’t be less information – but more context.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s co-founder, was lambasted last month after he attempted to defend Facebook’s decision to feature political advertising. A lawmaker who attended Harvard at the same time as Zuckerberg accused him of “rewriting history so it gives him an excuse to regulate himself.”

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