back to article Europe taps Facebook, Google, Twitter on the shoulder. So about those promises to stamp out lies, bots, dodgy ads?

Tasked with detailing their defenses against disinformation, Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Twitter, and ad biz trade groups on Tuesday turned in their homework to European Commission. The EU regulatory body last month, after prior deliberation, announced an Action Plan to counter the disinformation poisoning political discourse …

  1. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

    So 1.5 billions account in two quarters. In a year it should be around three billions... how many are the 'real' accounts?

    It was also interesting the research published yesterday by NYT - users don't need nor want targeted advertising....

    1. max allan

      Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

      That's a lot of accounts to have closed. And yet damn near every single ad I see is a scam. "90% discount on this iPhone lens, now only 19.99" for products available on Amazon or eBay for <5. Or stolen content from Kickstarter type campaigns cobbled together to look like it is actually for sale. Over http, and is a tenth of the price anywhere else and for some reason despite having a PayPal logo, only accepts payment by Bank transfer.

      It's not just one or 2 of these obvious scams. Literally 90% of the ads I see are like this.

      If I was a company wanting to advertise, I would not pay social media for an advert, it'd be like saying "we are scammers". Not likely to be a message anyone wants to send.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

        "It's not just one or 2 of these obvious scams. Literally 90% of the ads I see are like this.

        If I was a company wanting to advertise, I would not pay social media for an advert"

        You could be seeing the result of genuine companies already coming to that conclusion.

    2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: LDS

      Targeted advertising is more benefit to the ad slinger than the customer. It's the friendly name they give to the fact that they know what you look at, what you buy, what you wank to - but in return the adverts we give you will be for those ugly socks you buy from China, instead of "busty milfs available in your area" and the dick enlargement ads everyone else gets.

      1. The Nazz Silver badge

        hmmm dick enlargement

        The wife( now ex) showed me a few of those dick enlargement adverts, and rather suggestively said i should look into them. Strewth, i thought, i'm not paying $199.99 , plus package (fnarr, fnarr).

        So, in an effort to please her, i tied a large bottle of sauce to my dick, trusting that gravity would oblige.

        Two weeks later she asked how was it going. "Well, tbh, it's not any bigger yet but at least it's turned black."

        TL:dr : In the end she made her own arrangements.

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: hmmm dick enlargement

          I'm reminded of a joke about a man who found a magic lamp containing a genie who grants 3 wishes, but with consequences.

          The man asks first to never have to work again.

          Poof - He's now missing a leg and gets disability.

          For his second wish, after evaluating his new disability, he asks to never have to waste time going to the toilet again.

          Poof - He now has a stoma and piss bag strapped to him.

          Finally he wishes that his dick will touch the floor.

          Poof - His other leg disappears.

    3. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

      When I read that sentence I came here to say exactly that same thing! Have an upvote! Statistics available (quickly googled) show the number of 'Active' Facebook accounts as 2.27 billion for 2018 Q3. So, assuming this is minus the 1.5 billion of closed accounts, that means 40% of their 'Active' accounts have been shut! More worryingly, what if the accounts were't members of the set of active accounts? What if they were part of an unknown count of total accounts, active or otherwise? There's no upper limit to this - what if there's >100 billion facebook accounts and they only closed 1% of them? I bet the total number of accounts would be a statistic facebook aren't keen on publishing - any number far in excess of the world's population with access to technology would be a fairly damming indictment of the presence of shadowy bot plagues and sinister advertising practices. The whole ad industry is a fraudulent bubble as far as I can tell.

      1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

        Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

        And just to add, it looks really bad both ways, either a massive proportion of active accounts were fraudulent, or there's a much bigger number of fraudulent accounts still out there undiscovered...

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

      Without data on the age of the accounts these could include new accounts spawned by scammers who've just had their previous account taken down. It doesn't necessarily tell much about the proportion of fake accounts existing at the start of Q2 which have been removed.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: took down 800m and 754m fake accounts in Q2 and Q3

        "Without data on the age of the accounts these could include new accounts spawned by scammers who've just had their previous account taken down. It doesn't necessarily tell much about the proportion of fake accounts existing at the start of Q2 which have been removed."

        Fortunately we don't need to worry about not having that data, because it's all presented in the report linked at the start of the article. 99.6% of the accounts removed were done so automatically within minutes of registration. Fake accounts make up 3-4% of active accounts.

  2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    The company insists it's "bringing unprecedented transparency to political advertising"

    Unprecedented only in that there was bugger all transparency before now and minimal now. Technically correct but useless statement

  3. Alister Silver badge

    With regard to the footnote story, about social media and child suicide, I noticed a BBC headline saying "UK could ban social media over suicide images, minister warns".

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47019912

    I thought that might cause a bit of a flurry, can you imagine the outcry if the general populace couldn't access FaceGooInstaTwitchat?

    Or maybe the UK populace are so cowed nowadays that even that wouldn't rouse them?

    1. A.P. Veening

      "Or maybe the UK populace are so cowed nowadays that even that wouldn't rouse them?"

      They would just blame it on Brexit (or at least accept their political leaders blaming it on Brexit).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " can you imagine the outcry if the general populace couldn't access FaceGooInstaTwitchat?"

      Argh, the only place they'd have left to complain about it would be the BBC's "Have your say" comments pages, and that seems to be where a lot of people already go when they want to be wrong on the internet...

      Come back usenet, all is forgiven!

    3. The Nazz Silver badge

      Or maybe, most of the UK population are too cowed by Political Correctness and the fear of the downsides eg prosecution for hate speech, to actually express an honest opinion that the majority fault lies in poor, and dare i say, neglectful parenting. These days there's a huge gap between what people will think and what they dare say.

      I've also said it before :

      At the gym i'd said that although the official age for FB is 13 i'd heard that younger kids used it. "Oh yes" says this woman boastfully, "my 7 year old has her own account."

  4. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    FAIL

    Disinformation

    an Action Plan to counter the disinformation poisoning political discourse

    Good luck with that. I'm pretty sure disinformation an intrinsic feature of politics.

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Disinformation : Update

      And some politicians lie much more than others. Not to mention striking at the very essence of an honest and civilised society.

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-47040912

      Not quite sure myself why the perpetrator of multiple offences gets a lesser term than the one who covered up for her.

      (ps well used shoe horn for hire)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disinformation : Update

        "well used shoe horn for hire"

        Is it the kind with teeth? I want one of those...

  5. MJI Silver badge

    Damages

    As elsewhere, make them pay damages for dodgy ads, ripped off by a fake Martin Lewis advert, they reimburse the victim 100%

    The ads would soon get stopped!

  6. Mystereed

    Rather than close the accounts...

    ...once identified as bogus, why not just black hole them so that nobody ever sees the content those accounts produce?

    Maybe that way the scammers are less likely to move on to new accounts with a window of opportunity to rip off people before they get banned and they can also be used as a kind of honey pot (content on those accounts is highly dubious so that content being posted on another account is also more likely to be dodgy too)?

    Or maybe they only ever use the accounts for a few hours anyway - based on the numbers, there has got to be some kind of automation in use there for sure? Why not have a grace period after creation of an account where certain functions are not allowed or throttled. A proper business can wait a day or two to get their new name up and running before they pump out dozens of tweets/posts/blogs - scammers might actually get affected?

    There would be the added benefit of being able to track accounts which search for the content to check it is actually there - or do scammers not have test teams?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MUPPET CONTROL

    to prevent kids from seeing pro-suicide material, following the 2017 death of 14-year-old Molly Russell. Molly's family believe internet content on self-harm, depression, and anxiety influenced her to take her own life.

    WHY!

    why remove this perfectly good form of muppet control

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MUPPET CONTROL

      "why remove this perfectly good form of muppet control"

      You are an internet troll and I claim my £5.

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