Site Integrity Engineer Matt Jones Discusses How Facebook Keeps It Real

By David Cohen 

KeepItReal650Facebook continued to mark National Cyber Security Awareness Month with a note on the Facebook Security page from site integrity engineer Matt Jones, detailing the steps taken by the social network to eliminate fake profiles and fraudulent activity.

Jones wrote on fraudulent activity in general:

Most people rarely come into contact with spam or other low-quality content on Facebook, but we’re constantly working to make our service even better. It’s important to remember that fraudulent activity is bad for everyone — including page owners, advertisers, Facebook and people on our platform. We adapt our defenses constantly to stay ahead of spammers’ techniques, and one area we’ve focused on for several years is fake likes. We have a strong incentive to aggressively go after the bad actors behind fake likes because businesses and people who use our platform want real connections and results, not fakes. Businesses won’t achieve results and could end up doing less business on Facebook if the people they’re connected to aren’t real. It’s in our best interest to make sure that interactions are authentic.

On the motivation for questionable activity on the social network, he wrote:

The spammers behind fake likes have one goal — to make money off of page owners without delivering any value in return. They make their profit by promising and generating likes to Facebook page administrators who typically don’t understand that fake likes won’t help them achieve their business goals.

Fake-like peddlers tempt page admins with offers to “buy 10,000 likes!” or other similar schemes. To deliver those likes, the scammers often try to create fake accounts, or in some cases, even hack into real accounts in order to use them for sending spam and acquiring more likes. Since these fraudulent operations are financially motivated businesses, we focus our energy on making this abuse less profitable for the spammers.

How does Facebook combat this activity? Jones explained:

Fake content like spam is only profitable when it can spread at scale. To make it harder for these scams to be profitable, our abuse-fighting team builds and constantly updates a combination of automated and manual systems that help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including registration, friending, liking and messaging.

We write rules and use machine learning to catch suspicious behavior that sticks out. When we catch fraudulent activity, we work to counter and prevent it, including blocking accounts and removing fake likes all at once. As our tools have become more sophisticated, we’ve contributed some of our spam-fighting technology to the academic community, as well, in hopes of helping other companies combat similar problems. We want to help block spam no matter where it spreads.

Beyond technical measures, we pursue other methods to make spamming less profitable. We have obtained nearly $2 billion in legal judgments against spammers, and we utilize these channels when possible to remind would-be offenders that we will fight back to prevent abuse on our platform. We also limit likes per account to make spammers’ operations less efficient. When like activity gets unusually high, we take additional steps to make sure the likes are legitimate, such as asking for additional verification. These measures often help slow down or deter the activity completely. Ultimately, it’s a combination of approaches rather than a single technique that helps us stay ahead of the spammers.

How can users help? Jones offered the following tips:

Don’t buy fraudulent likes: Fraudulent likes are going to do more harm than good to your page. The people involved are unlikely to engage with a page after liking it initially. Our algorithm takes page engagement rates into account when deciding when and where to deliver a page’s legitimate ads and content, so pages with an artificially inflated number of likes are actually making it harder on themselves to reach the people they care about most.

Focus on key business objectives: Page likes can make your ads more effective and efficient, and they can provide you with insights into people connected to your business. However, obtaining likes shouldn’t be a goal unto itself. Your business will see much greater value if you use Facebook to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or boosting application downloads.

If getting more likes will help you drive your business objectives, we offer tools to help pages generate authentic likes from real people who are genuinely interested in a page. You can visit the “Build Audience” tab on any page you administer in order to invite friends to like the page or pay to promote your page using targeting criteria that you specify. Targeting is the key to obtaining the specific results you want from your campaign.

Be cautious to avoid infecting your computer with malware: Malware is software that’s designed to take unwanted actions on your behalf, such as liking pages. You can get malware from things like:

If you think you have malware on your computer, learn how to get rid of it.

Readers: What did you think of Jones’ post?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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