Just how big is the problem?
For people who've been following Facebook's expanding scandals over Russian election meddling and data privacy, it's been hard to figure out exactly how bad everything is for CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team.
Facebook's put out a few data points, like thatand that as many as .
But when it comes to how many bad people are on Facebook's service, that's harder to say.
For the past few years, Facebook has included a section in its financial filings referring to "undesirable" accounts. They include "misclassified" accounts (such as a personal profile for a business, instead of a "page"), and also accounts created to violate the company's terms of service, such as duplicates, fakes and spam accounts, which were the focus of an investigative piece by the Washington Post on Friday.
But of course, Facebook doesn't break out how many of those undesirable accounts are really bad actors versus the misclassified ones out of its 2.2 billion user base. And even then, the undesirable category is really just an estimate. For example, last week, after announcing earnings that beat Wall Street expectations, Facebook put out a filing that said those "undesirable accounts" represented as much as 4 percent of its user base, or about 87 million accounts. That number is up, by the way, from 18 million back in 2016.
Facebook declined to break out the two categories further.
We may never really know how many bad accounts are on Facebook. And as noted, even Facebook says it's an estimate. But the next time you wonder how bad the problem Zuckerberg is up against, at least now you have a little more context.
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