The Fakebook Case

As I said in my previous post where I discussed the phenomenon of some Greek fake Facebook accounts, this entire thing, did not come as an epiphany to me. It is something we all know, we accept and we come across at some time in our social media life. Having said that, I decided to research a bit on the topic and see what’s out there, collecting some information for all of us that actually rely on Facebook to get some things done or get our message “across”.

First things first, according to this survey, back in 2012, almost 83 Million accounts on Facebook were “false” (we’ll see what that means later on). On 2014, this number raised to 140 Million, whereas in 2015, evidence report that this number was up to 170 Million. This shows a steady increase of almost 30 Million false accounts per year, so it would be safe to assume that Facebook is close to hitting the 200 Million mark soon!

Image taken from here

200 Million users, that is derived from a percentage of 5.5 to 11.2 of the actual active users that Facebook gets per month, based on their report. Facebook classifies the false accounts into three categories:

  1. Duplicate accounts (4.3%-7.9%),
  2. User-misclassified accounts (0.8%-2.1%), and
  3. Undesirable accounts (0.4%-1.2%)

The last portion of accounts, are the ones I call fake, and are used for spamming, violating the terms of service for Facebook and the works. So, if 11.2% is around 200 Million accounts (simplest possible Math, I know, but bear with me), then 1.2% should be around 20 Million, right? So, in other words, 1.2 per 100 users is an account that does not correspond to an actual person but more to a “persona” created by someone to promote their business, brand, or whatever.

In Greece, as of 1/1/2016, we are proud to have 6.744.991 Facebook users! On the other hand, based on the 2011 census, Greece has 10.816.286 inhabitants. If you take out the people that are either too young to have a  Facebook account (less than 10 years of age – 1.049.839) and the one too old to have Facebook (more than 70 – 1.600.576), you’re left with 8.165.871 potential Facebook users. This roughly means that Facebook has a penetration (users VS inhabitants) of 82.6% in Greece, meaning that more than 8 out of 10 people have a Facebook account. I don’t think so! Even if you count some duplicate accounts, again this number is too high to be real.

One thing I could not locate easily was how many Monthly Active Users (MAU) Facebook has in Greece, so this is a number that I can only estimate. So, if the world population is 7.4 Billion and 1.65 Billion goes on Facebook, once a month, then you get a MAU ratio worldwide of 22.3%. So, for Greece, if you count the Facebook accounts, the number could be around 1.5 Million users going online at least once a month. So, from the 1.2% (at best) of fake accounts that match to this number, would be around 18.000 users. Again, using my own Math here…

Photo taken from here

I extended a bit my research in my previous post and I got back 135 fake accounts. In just one case. The process I followed was to check 9-10 people of the “original” fakes I identified, and then look in their friends’ list, for profile photos that seemed a little off. I guess that if I had the time, I would come up with even more. I was also able to identify two normal users that were friends with most of the fake accounts, which leads me to believe, that maybe (just maybe) these two were among the ones that originated the fake accounts in the first place.

Finishing with the search, I decided to select the most obvious fake accounts and share them… There they are, from the least to the most obvious…

4) Anna Kyriakatou who’s actually the lovely Vera Eremeychuk, a Russian fitness model

3) Anna Spiridou who’s actually Julia Adasheva, a Russian model again

2) Alexandros Oikonomou who’s actually Mariano di Vaio, again a model

1) Tasos Peroullakis, the worst of all, mainly cause they did not even bother to get the photo of someone that’s not that Asian! This guy actually has a wiki page dedicated to him, and he’s Naoki Urasawa, a Japanese manga artist and occasional musician!

13406720_10154237907417365_7718771985895697202_nBut, over all of the above, I have to give first place to a friend request that I received the other day that proves either that someone is playing a prank on me, or that Facebook is even worst. Meet Tazeeb Ali, a Facebook Product Manager (!) living in Aigaleo, Greece, with 8-9 friends from Arabic countries and with some photos of guns, a baby and some desert landscapes in his profile.. Weird friend request right?

Is it that bad for Facebook to “tolerate” these accounts? Of course it is, on the quality part of it all at least. Having a community that is almost 10% false, is quite a number. On the other hand, on the quantity part of it, how much harm do the fake accounts (1.2%) really do? You get post engagement, and the Greek community of entrepreneurs (at least the ones that are not that tech-savvy), lives happily ever after seeing that their post is really booming!

Another interesting aspect is that some of these accounts, really take up a life of their own. I identified an account that belonged to some lady that was actually a super model from some other country. All the men looking to pick up a date or meet someone, befriended her, allowing her to reach something like 1.500 friends in no time. And all the Greeks, commented below her profile pic, trying some pickup lines, that went unresponded of course. And this was a fake account. But then again, imagine what happens if this non-person starts posting adds, pages, etc. Don’t you think that some of these men would actually like the posts, and potentially the pages? And then they could as well engage in buying some of the stuff this fake profile advertises.

And then you have the argument, that no matter who the original creator of the account is, they are just creating a persona (albeit with a photo of a real life person). They develop it, connect it with others, heck, even post a few things of their own conception. And then they use it to promote things. It could as well be a page of a persona that they build and they are totally frank about it. Except that they are not. Moraly this is completely wrong. But then again we are talking about social media, not the examination of conscience.

In similar cases of men, no matter how attractive, there were not that many friends, not even close. Maybe cause it’s a typical male behavior to befriend people based on their breasts or other qualities (no stereotyping intended here). So, in the end, these profiles really serve their purpose, creating false “demand” for pages and events, etc. and men get their fantasies satisfied in a way, so everyone wins! Right? Not exactly.

I can’t put my finger on this, but I would be as bold as to claim that fake accounts in Greece (not false, fake), are more than an estimated 18.000. I would go as far as to say that also on the entire Facebook, the percentage of fake accounts is way more than 1.2%. My assumption would be that from the 6.7 Million Facebook accounts in Greece, at least 5% are fakes. I mean, if I discovered 135 fake accounts from one user (possible more), all it takes is 3.000 “smart” Greeks that will set up similar business models, creating fake accounts to try and monetize them. That’s a rough 0.03% of the entire population of the country…! In the past, Greeks have been called to report their illegally built houses, pay some fees and save them. If I were Facebook, I would claim the same. “Report your fake accounts and we let you keep em”. And then, if everyone came in, we would have quite a story to say…

Generally speaking, being part of such communities is maybe OK in the beginning, but there’s a point when things get too spammy for ones taste. It’s right there and then when time comes to move to other types of communities where safety and privacy will become a part of the mission and even their business model. I know that I would be open to suggestions…



3 thoughts on “The Fakebook Case

  1. Society needs time to adapt to new ideas and technology moves quite fast for it to catch up.
    We embrace new items and try to use them as much as possible until we get bored or reality strike us and then try to find the balance.

    I wanted to comment on your other post as well, just check the “scandalous” fake re-tweets from know accounts, people that just buy re-tweets to create an impression on them. See the case of Adonis Georgiadis (in Greek) here:
    or numerous articles for the case of Obama (and I am pretty sure all the politicians do this).

    As for FB, you may want to also take into account the following:
    1) in the past, there were no FB pages only accounts, a number of “fake” users registered their enterprise with a profile page
    2) it is almost impossible to manage a FB page if you don’t have a profile page, so as a company owner I must create a profile page for my company before creating a page for my company (unless I am already a user)
    3) No developers-testing accounts, if you are a developer and want to create an app that will interconnect with FB, you can only add real testing accounts, which in terms will never happen, everyone that creates apps has at least 5-6 fake accounts for testing purposes
    4) they don’t care, they might have created a number of prevention mechanisms (report fakes, add phone number, etc.) but in reality they don’t care because their business line (i.e. they are an advertising company) is based on number of users and number of data

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