If your Facebook feed is teeming with wild Deep State theories, that might be on you, a Facebook study has found. Two researchers from Facebook and one from Harvard tested an algorithm that looks at your friending activity to detect fake accounts, or sybils. The paper shows that an outlying group of people who accept friend requests from any old rando are more likely to be targeted by fake accounts. So, stop doing that.
Facebook prides itself on busting fake accounts. It likes to tell us about it. The company says that it disabled over 2.2 billion accounts in the first quarter of 2019, most “within minutes of account creation,” according to the paper. But some of these fake accounts live long enough to make connections with real users, and the report found that 5 percent of Facebook’s 2.37 billion monthly active users were fake accounts.
Those fake accounts have gotten savvy about their targets, the paper finds. While the majority of real people tend to reject requests from fake accounts, a small group accepts fake and real accounts equally, and those unsuspecting users are easy prey. “For certain users (but not others), whether a request comes from a fake/real account is highly determinative of her decision to accept or reject,” the researchers find, pointing to a correlation between high acceptance rates and friend requests from fake accounts. From this, Facebook extrapolates that overeager accepters’ decisions can be “leveraged,” as they signal that their friends are more likely to be fake.
If you are of the more discerning folk, the paper finds that an unknown user who’s friended you is more likely to be real, and your rejections could help detect fakes. “[The algorithm SybilEdge] takes only a few rejects by savvy real users for an eager abusive account to be flagged as abusive,” they write.
Trust no one. Being nice makes your Facebook terrible. If your heart aches for those sweet notifications, here’s a button to get you through the day.