And as a measure of its commitment to fix the problem, Facebook wants to let everyone know that it has been cranking-up its crackdown on what it calls “inauthentic accounts”, busting and deleting over a billion zombies, fakes, scammers, bots and trolls.
Despite the purge, the popular social network founded 14 years ago by Mark Zuckerberg admits there are between 66 and 88 million more undetected fakes among its 2.2 billion users.
Getting rid of them is still a work in progress, but critics say Facebook isn’t looking hard enough or acting fast enough. Some even go as far to accuse Facebook of deliberately turning a blind eye to protect its business model.
Good folk, bad hombres
You don’t need the benefit of Facebook’s artificial intelligence detection system and its posse of thousands of human enforcers to trace some of those millions of fake accounts which have successfully evaded the dragnet.
They’re there in plain sight. You just have to know where to look.
Take for instance, Texas, Queensland. Situated on the southern reaches of the Darling Downs 230km south-west of Brisbane, Texas sits on the banks of the Dumaresq River which forms the border with New South Wales.
While searching for Australians fighting in Syria, ABC News stumbled across scores of Facebook profiles of US military personnel allegedly based in Syria who all claimed to be from Texas, Queensland.
The trail led to hundreds more questionable Facebook accounts which claim links to that one small town which has a population of about 900.
From love scammers and get-rich-quick schemes to alt-right accounts spreading fake political news, the one thing in common with these accounts is that all the “people” behind them claim to live in or come from Texas, Queensland.
ABC News provided details of 218 of these accounts to Facebook on July 4 and, within a few days, most of them had disappeared off the platform.
Of those 218, almost half of those were profiles of US military personnel serving in Afghanistan who claimed to come from Texas, Queensland.
In the fortnight since these accounts were taken down by Facebook, a new batch of 19 accounts – purporting to be US military personnel serving in Afghanistan who come from Texas, Queensland – have been created.
And there’s many more where they came from.
ABC News audited another 500 profiles of people who claim to reside in Texas, Queensland. Only six could be identified as real residents of the town. The vast majority — 448 — contained one or more suspicious signals. And the remaining 46 cases were too hard to tell.
Muhammad Khan is one of those among the 500 accounts identified who both comes from and lives in Texas, Queensland. He joined Facebook in April, 2017. His profile photos show a Caucasian male.
Like many of these suspicious accounts, the photos of Muhammad Khan have almost certainly been swiped from the internet. In order to protect innocent victims of identity theft, we have pixelated the faces of people featured in the examples of fake profiles.