A long-running dispute refocused on today’s focus with a controversial report stating that more than half of Facebook’s monthly active users are truly fake.
The report, written by Facebook critic Aaron Greenspan, alleges that the social media giant has no way of accurately measuring its true user base, or in other words, accounts that are compared to real people, and that Facebook’s reported metrics substantially overestimate the number of real monthly active users.
In particular, Greenspan is a former Harvard teammate and founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. In 2009, Adweek reported that Facebook and Greenspan reached a confidential agreement on a trademark dispute regarding the term “The Face Book”. Greenspan’s new report, however, alleges substantially more than a possibly stolen name.
“The fact of the matter is that Facebook now does not have and will never have a precise way to measure your false account problem,” the report says. “Considering all these factors, we estimate that 50 percent or more of current Facebook MAUs are really false.”
Facebook vehemently disputes Greenspan’s analysis. “This is unequivocally incorrect and a responsible report means reporting facts, even if it is false accounts,” a company spokesperson wrote by e-mail.
However, at least one group seems to be taking the allegations in the report seriously: Facebook investors. Seeking Alpha, a financial analysis website, notes that Facebook shares fell on January 24 shortly after the publication of the Greenspan report.
So, is this report simply an explosion of someone with an ax to grind? Or is there really something to the claim? The report itself tries to influence that, with Greenspan writing that “[readers] are, therefore, welcome to dismiss this analysis as biased, but they should be aware that, however, it may still be correct.”
He also writes, because I suppose why not cast a little personal shadow while he is discussing the accusations of massive corporate embezzlement, “Mark Zuckerberg is by no means objective a genius.”
Facebook, for its part, has admitted in the past that there are false or duplicate accounts on its platform. In 2017, the company noted that up to 270 million accounts could fall into one of those two categories. However, that number is far from what Greenspan says.
In the end, determining the exact amount of fake Facebook accounts is probably an impossible task. However, this does not mean that there are no precise estimates. What leaves us with the question of more than 2 billion users who seems more credible: Facebook or Greenspan?