For a while I ran a magazine for people interested in both philosophy and science fiction, and I used Facebook to advertise it to users who enjoy both. I would set up the advert, pay the bill, and then… well, who knows if the adverts were seen by anyone I genuinely wanted to reach? Business that advertise on social media are totally reliant on their suppliers giving an honest account of the service they have provided. Furthermore, those firms need to counter the creation of fake accounts. That is why it is disturbing that Associated Press reported that Facebook had removed three billion fake accounts between October 2018 and March 2019. This was double the number of fake accounts they identified in the previous six months.
Social media bots are becoming more common. Computers are ever more widespread on an international level, because poverty is being reduced globally. Artificial intelligence is becoming more sophisticated. So the factors that could lead social media customers to be overbilled are all pointing in the same direction. The risks are rising, but what are politicians and regulators doing to protect users? Sadly, they are doing nothing.
There is a mind-boggling disparity in the way billing accuracy is assured in different sectors. If you buy food, you know somebody has been employed to check it has been weighed correctly. Your electricity meter has been tested for accuracy. Some countries have stringent controls over phone bills, whilst others do not. None have made any serious progress towards verifying the revenues collected by the social media giants. This discrepancy highlights the paradox that governments only like to protect customers when they can work out how to do it. But it is precisely when billing is a mystery that customers need most protection.