“To catch this behavior, we needed a broad definition of what constitutes an issue ad. And because a lot of ads touch on these types of issues, we now require many legitimate businesses to get verified, even when their ads are not actually political…”
In a a 3,260-word missive posted on Facebook this morning, the social media colossus’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company removed one billion fake accounts in six months alone last year – and has ratcheted up spending on Facebook security tools including machine learning to remove more.
That’s the equivalent to nearly 5.5 million accounts every single day.
The note, titled “Preparing for Elections”, set out Zuckerberg’s thoughts on security and was what he said will be the first of a series of in-depth posts on pressing topics for the company, which faces a growing media and regulatory spotlight.
“With advances in machine learning, we have now built systems that block millions of fake accounts every day We removed more than one billion fake accounts — the vast majority within minutes of being created and before they could do any harm — in the six months between October and March,” he wrote.
Facebook Security: “It’s an Arms Race”
He wrote: “Like most security issues, this is an arms race. The numbers are so large because our adversaries use computers to create fake accounts in bulk. And while we are quickly improving our ability to detect and block them, it is still very difficult to identify the most sophisticated actors who build their networks manually one fake account at a time. This is why we’ve also hired a lot more people to work on safety and security — up from 10,000 last year to more than 20,000 people this year.”
He added: “We know we still have work to improve the precision of our systems. Fake accounts continue to slip through without detection — and we also err in the other direction mistakenly taking down people using our services legitimately. These systems will never be perfect, but by investing in artificial intelligence and more people, we will continue to improve.”
Takes a Jab at Industry Rivals
Amid an ongoing focus on political adverts on the platform sponsored by bad actors, he noted: “One challenge we faced… is that most of the divisive ads… focused on issues — like civil rights or immigration — and did not promote specific candidates. To catch this behavior, we needed a broad definition of what constitutes an issue ad. And because a lot of ads touch on these types of issues, we now require many legitimate businesses to get verified, even when their ads are not actually political. Given that the verification process takes a few days, this is frustrating to many companies who rely on our ads to drive their sales.”
Facebook toyed with the idea of banning political ads outright, but decided against it, he added.
The company has now set up an independent election research commission with academics and foundations to identify research topics and select — through a peer-review process — independent research to study them.
“The commission will share Facebook data with those researchers so they can draw their own conclusions about our role in elections, including our effectiveness in preventing abuse, and so they can publish their work without requiring approval from us. We’ve worked with industry experts to ensure this is done in a way that protects everyone’s privacy,” he concluded.