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Evidence suggests Facebook is on a mega troll-hunt

Recent stats on popular Facebook pages show a dramatic drop in numbers, indicating that the company might be doing a sudden purge of fake accounts and trolls.

Official pages for Cristiano Ronaldo, Shakira and Leonel Messi have all been hit by an abrupt drop in ‘likes’ over the past two days. While Facebook has so far not confirmed what’s behind the decline, a fresh sweep of accounts removals seems the most likely cause for the popularity plummet.

Celebs aren’t the only ones who are finding themselves with fewer followers. Facebook pages for The Guardian, China Global TV News (CGTN) and BuzzFeed’s Tasty network have all seen falls. Even Facebook itself has suffered, with Likes on its own app page dropping by over 250,000 in the last 24 hours.

Related: How to stop Facebook from tracking you when you’re not on Facebook

Out of the other pages, it looks like poor old Ronaldo has been the worst affected, with a decline of nearly 200,000 likes on Tuesday. Shakira lost 162,921, Messi dropped 122,151 and CGTN is down by 59,055. BuzzFeed’s Tasty page wasn’t as poorly affected, with a slight dip of 31,428, while The Guardian only lost 6,934 likes.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook has decided to do some housekeeping on likes and accounts. Back in 2015, the company warned businesses that it was about to start removing deceased and inactive accounts, which would have a knock-on effect on their corporate pages. In 2019 alone the company removed 5.5 billion fake accounts.

Related: Zuckerberg says he’s okay with Facebook paying more tax in Europe

What’s strange this time is that the company hasn’t given any reason for the abrupt and sweeping removals. Facebook is usually transparent when it comes to its handling of fake accounts, even publishing a quarterly report detailing what it’s been up to.

It seems odd to delete these accounts in one sudden sweep, rather than tackling fake accounts as they crop up. When we reached out to Facebook, the company didn’t offer an explanation for the abruptness of this drop, but instead said that the team works “consistently” to remove fake profiles.

A company spokesperson said:

“It is against our rules to set up a fake profile and we consistently work to detect and take down this type of activity by using technology and drawing on our team of over 35,000 safety and security experts. Between July and September last year we removed 1.7 billion fake accounts, with the majority caught within minutes of registration.”

Facebook also told us that it has several steps in place to protect advertisers from invalid clicks and that if suspicious activity is detected the company conducts a manual review. As such, advertisers shouldn’t ever be charged for iffy clicks on content.

Related: How to turn on WhatsApp dark mode

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