The spam industry has matured to the point that it now recognizes itself as a business with a market economy.
NBC News recently posted an interesting article where the author notes that the spam industry follows the same Law of Supply and Demand as any capitalist-loving business does. As social networks crack down on fake accounts and fake news, the spam industry is able to charge their customers more to establish such inauthentic accounts.
Facebook shut down as many as 30,000 fake accounts in the past week — but that's unlikely to hurt the multi-million-dollar spam industry.
In fact, since Facebook's post-election housecleaning, it's become even more lucrative for spammers to pump out "inauthentic accounts." The asking price on the black market for 1,000 fake accounts used to be $20, but security changes by the social network giant only succeeded in driving up prices.
"If you go to the underground markets where they sell fake Facebook accounts, you can buy 1,000 of these for $300 to $400," Damon McCoy, a New York University computer science professor specializing in cybercrime, told NBC News.
Fighting inauthentic accounts and inauthentic activity is not new to social networks. In recent years, Facebook has put a lot of effort into reducing such activities by closing accounts responsible for fake likes and fake news. Last week, Shabnam Shaik, Facebook's Security Technical Program Manager, acknowledged the recent efforts of his security team to fight the spread of misinformation on their social network.
With these changes, we expect we will also reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts. In France, for example, these improvements have enabled us to take action against over 30,000 fake accounts. While these most recent improvements will not result in the removal of every fake account, we are dedicated to continually improving our effectiveness. Our priority, of course is to remove the accounts with the largest footprint, with a high amount of activity and a broad reach.
This effort complements other initiatives we have previously announced that are designed to reduce the distribution of misinformation, spam or false news on Facebook. We've found that a lot of false news is financially motivated, and as part of our work to promote an informed society, we have focused on making it very difficult for dishonest people to exploit our platform or profit financially from false news sites using Facebook.
As the popularity of social media has gained, for most of this decade the trend for email spam had been steadily decreasing. So getting back to the NBC News story, the article also makes one more observation that isn't going to please anyone but those profiting from spam. Recent research conducted by Cisco has shown that for the first time since 2010, email spam is no longer trending down but up. This time around email spammers are frequently targeting businesses instead of individuals. The email spam is no longer in the form of unwanted advertisement but instead are using phishing techniques. It's a subtle reminder that long before fake news on Facebook, we had fake email in our inbox.