Facebook and trusted sources

Social media has been awash with material relating to the election campaign. Facebook have used the opportunity to put out advice to their users. That advice is all about how to spot fake news.

Facebook advise the following when you see a piece of information.

Ask three questions:

  1. Where is it from
  2. What is missing
  3. How do you feel

They go on to say “a trusted source is your safest option. If there’s no source, search for one. If it doesn’t look right, be careful”

This is extremely good advice. But how does that advice work for Facebook’s own posts? This is particularly relevant for small businesses and members of the public in Somerset.

Many businesses with Facebook pages will have seen adverts that look a bit like this:

Facebook 27 oct


Using the Facebook guide, we can ask if we should trust it?

What is the source?

It is Facebook. Is that a trusted source?

No. Why can we say this?

Because this advert has already been condemned by the Irish Advertising Standards Authority and Facebook agreed to stop using it. Because it as demonstrably wrong. Recently they have started using it again.

Remember Facebook say: If it doesn’t look right, be careful.

It doesn’t look right.

The total population of the area within 15km of Langport is around 80,000 (that area does not include Bridgwater, Taunton or Yeovil). So even if every man woman and child had a Facebook account, this would not be right.

What is missing?

Accurate numbers.

You may not agree with our assessment of the population, but our number is consistent.

Over the past 5 years we have received adverts from Facebook claiming we could reach:






And each time the claim is made that this is the reach within 15km of Langport. The numbers  do not stand up to any scrutiny.

So serious question now. Are Facebook just making numbers up?

It is certainly possible, it even looks likely but it seems odd that they would do that.

Is there another possible explanation?

Well yes there is. That may well be the number of accounts registered on Facebook within 15km of Langport. Because vast numbers of Facebook accounts are not actually real.

Why are they so large? Remember that Facebook regularly admit to having not millions but billions of fake accounts. Russian or BeloRussian bot factories churn them out.

So let’s return to Facebook’s advice “a trusted source is your safest option. If there’s no source, search for one. If it doesn’t look right, be careful”

Here’s some information about the volume of fake accounts on Facebook from other trusted sources:

Washington Post, May 2018: “Facebook revealed Tuesday that it removed more than half a billion fake accounts ….. during the first three months of 2018.

January 2019, tech entrepreneur Aaron Greenspan, a former Harvard classmate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claimed “Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network.”

In May 2019 Bloomberg reported that “Facebook Removes a Record 2.2 Billion Fake Accounts. The vast majority are removed within minutes of being created, the company said.

And in November 2019 CNBC reported that “Facebook removed 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September, more than twice as many as last year.”

If we assume based on this material that anything up to 50% of Facebook accounts are totally fake, the fact that Facebook claim to have 150,000 accounts within 15km of Langport suddenly makes sense.

How does it make you feel?

Do you feel used and taken advantage of?

Can you gte more reach by advertising on social media. Yes you can.

But who is that reach too? A lot of fake accounts that are not actually real people.

Do you mind paying to send your message out to an audience where anything up to 50% of them may be Russian bot accounts?

There will be a full article on this issue going out in the December Leveller® next week

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