Facebook ramps up efforts to quash fake accounts

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Facebook is ramping up efforts to kill off sham accounts used to spread fake news, pass along malware and falsely boost page rankings, activity that can distort its advertisers’ views of user interest.

The company is in the process of rolling out changes to its technical systems to make it harder to create fake accounts, its security team said in in a blog post. These include looking for patterns such as repeated posts of the same content or an increase in messages sent.

Facebook said that its newest changes allowed it to find and kill off more than 30,000 fake accounts in France.

“By constantly improving our techniques, we also aim to reduce the financial incentives for spammers who rely on distribution to make their efforts worthwhile,” Shabnam Shaik, a technical program manager at Facebook, wrote in a post on Thursday.

That’s still a small percentage of these accounts across the platform. Facebook estimated that duplicate or fake accounts represented 1% of its monthly active users in 2016, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange commission. The company says it has 1.89 billion monthly active users.

Facebook accounts are typically created by illicit firms in developing nations. The accounts can be used to send out spam, to sell black-market cyber tools, to launch credential-stealing posts or to “like” businesses in order to make them more popular on the site and also potentially to boost their rankings on search engines.

Facebook scams were the most common form of malware distributed in 2015,according to Cisco.

These account farms typically have been run from countries such as Pakistan, India and the Philippines among others. Some employ low-cost labor and some use software to achieve the same result.

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