Facebook reportedly struggles to count users as people create multiple accounts

An internal report viewed by The Wall Street Journal shows the company could be grappling with just how many active users it has.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Facebook is shaky about how many users are actually on its platform, according to a report Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. Internal documents show the social network is having a hard time identifying just how many active users it can count as people create multiple accounts on Facebook, The Journal reports.

An internal presentation at the company from the spring reportedly noted that among new accounts, it was a "very prevalent" circumstance for individual users to have multiple accounts. Facebook looked at around 5,000 recent sign-ups and found that between 32% and 56% were created by users who already had previous accounts, according to The Journal. 

Additionally, another memo from May reportedly found that the number of Facebook users in the US who are in their 20s and active on the platform at least once a month is often greater than the total population of Americans in that demographic. The memo noted this could mean Facebook's number of daily active users could be "less trustable," The Journal reports. 

The publication notes this reported uncertainty in user count could impact the reliability of information shared with advertisers.

A Facebook representative told CNET: "It's not a revelation that we study duplicate accounts, and this snapshot of information doesn't tell the full story. Nothing in this story changes the estimate of duplicate accounts we disclose in our public filings, which includes new users, or that we provide context on in our ad products, ad interfaces, in our help centers, and in other places. Ultimately, advertisers use Facebook because they see results -- we help them meet their business objectives and provide appropriate metrics in our reporting tools."

Facebook bans people from having multiple personal accounts, as it calls itself a "real identity platform." Instead, users can only have one primary account with their real name. The memos The Journal reviewed suggest the reason most users make multiple accounts is because they get locked out of their main accounts or make an error signing in.