Facebook removes ‘coordinated’ political influence campaign as midterms loom

Facebook removes ‘coordinated’ political influence campaign as midterms loom

Facebook removes ‘coordinated’ political influence campaign as midterms loom

Since the 2016 election, Facebook has cracked down on fake accounts and tried to slow the spread of fake news and misinformation through outside fact-checkers.

Nathaniel Gleicher, the Head of Cybersecurity Policy, said Facebook couldn't identify who was behind the campaign with certainty, but did compare the pattern of behavior with those of the infamous Russian "troll farm," the Internet Research Agency (IRA). It publicly said it had been unable to tie the accounts to Russian Federation, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russian Federation was possibly involved, according to two officials briefed on the matter.

In its latest discovery of suspected political interference, Facebook said it had removed 17 profiles and eight pages, along with seven accounts on Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app.

It said the "bad actor" accounts on the world's biggest social network and its photo-sharing site Instagram could not be tied directly to Russian actors, who American officials say used the platform to spread disinformation ahead of the 2016 United States presidential election.

This post originally appeared on Tom's Hardware.

Thirty events created by the inauthentic pages had already taken place, Facebook representatives said on the call, adding that the pages were taken down ahead of one event scheduled for August 10 in Washington, DC.

The perpetrators in this case took more trouble to cover their tracks, using VPNs and third-party companies to post the ads, so it'd be hard to say with certainty who implemented the campaign.

According to a Facebook official, the company this week briefed members of the U.S. House and Senate as well as officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Unfortunately, the company said the identity of those creating the bogus posts remains unclear.

"We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform - before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms, and around other events and elections", Gleicher said. For example, they used virtual private networks and internet phone services to mask their locations, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf.

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Two U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Russia was behind the Facebook campaign, but one noted that "the similarities, aims and methodology relative to the 2016 Russian campaign are quite striking".

Whoever put them up knew what they were doing: "It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past", Facebook said in a post.

Robert Mueller's special counsel probe has brought charges against a series of Russians accused of posting pro-Trump material as well as racially-charged material, which is alleged to have been meant to exacerbate tensions and destabilize USA democracy.

It said that there were more than 9,500 Facebook posts created by the accounts and one piece of content on Instagram.

Some of the most-followed pages that were shut down included "Resisters" and "Aztlan Warriors".

While Facebook said that "some of the activity is consistent" with the IRA, it hasn't linked the campaign definitively to Russian Federation due to this same reason of obscurity.

The company also did not directly suggest the pages were aimed at influencing the USA midterm elections in November.

"Today, Facebook took a significant step in making this information public and it should continue working to quickly identify who is behind this", Nebraska Republican Sen.

This time, though, the pages Facebook found focused "exclusively at engaging and influencing the left end of the American political spectrum", according to the Atlantic Council researchers.

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