If you’ve ever gotten a fake friend request, you know Facebook has spammers. But it’s winning the fight against them. Facebook’s estimate of the total percentage of monthly users that are “undesirable” or spammer accounts dropped to 0.9 percent from 1.5 percent in June 2012. That means there’s only around 9.5 million of these trouble-makers on the site, down 37 percent from 15.1 million in mid-2012.
Facebook buried these stats in page 23 of the fine print of its Q4 2012 earnings release, where it defines an “undesirable account” as one that “represents user profiles that we determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming.” Because of the viral nature of Facebook and its multitude of communication channels, keeping out spammers is critical.
When allowed to survive, they flood the site with fake friend requests, spam photos tagged with everyone they’re connected to, fraudulent events invites, and any other way they can generate notifications. Often these spammers use phishing tactics to steal Facebook login credentials from other users. Once phished, a spammer uses an innocent person’s account to attack their friends.
But Facebook has an expert team dedicated to staying one step ahead. There’s plenty for them to do, considering I recently got both of the fake friend requests above. Personally, I think more stringent filters on photos that include over six friends tags but don’t show any faces would help. Spam photos promoting free airline tickets and cheap shoes tagged with dozens of people are still common. Still, I’ve heard security team members often pose as spammers to infiltrate secret hacker forums, learn the latest tricks used to surpass Facebook’s automated security systems, and then close those loopholes.
That doesn’t mean the rest of Facebook’s 1.055 billion user accounts are actually people. It estimates 1.3 percent of its monthly users are “misclassified,” aka personal accounts mistakenly created for businesses, organizations, or pets. Still, the world’s getting smarter, as that figure is down from 2.4 percent of the total user base in June 2012. So the lesson here is that if you see a spammer on Facebook, report them, and don’t make a profile for your kitten. Give Mr. Whiskers an official Page.