Facebook Deleted Three Billion Fake Accounts Since Last October

The programmers and engineers at Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) have been busy.

The social media company announced that it has removed more than three billion fake accounts since last October. That’s three billion with a "b." Facebook also said that it removed twice as many fake accounts as in the previous six months. Nearly all the fake accounts were caught before they had a chance to become "active" users.

In a new report, Facebook said it saw a "steep increase" in the creation of abusive, fake accounts in the past six months. While most of these fake accounts were blocked "within minutes" of their creation, the company said the increase meant that a lot of fake accounts continue to slip through the cracks.

Facebook now estimates that 5% of its 2.4 billion monthly active users are fake accounts. This is up from an estimated 3% in the previous six months when Facebook blocked 1.5 billion phony accounts.

The increase in removals shows the challenges Facebook faces in removing accounts created by computers to spread spam, fake news and other objectionable content. As Facebook's detection tools get better, so do the efforts by creators of fake accounts.

The new numbers come as Facebook struggles to contain fake news, hate speech and incitement to violence in the U.S., Myanmar (Burma), India and elsewhere. Facebook today employs thousands of people whose only job is to review posts, photos, comments and videos for violations of the company’s policies.

A persistent problem for Facebook is the company’s lack of procedures for authenticating the identities of people or organizations setting up accounts. Only in instances where a user has been booted off the service and won an appeal to be reinstated does it ask to see identification.