Facebook Removes 32 Pages, Accounts Deemed Fake

Schiff New Facebook influence campaign 'bears hallmarks' of 2016 Russian election activity
Greg Nash
Author

02 August, 2018

It has 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 of the officials.

Facebook stopped short of saying the effort was aimed at influencing the USA midterm elections in November, although the timing of the suspicious activity would be consistent with such an attempt. The company's stock has plunged more than 20 per cent since last week, after it reported slower user growth and rising costs for security and safety programs to crack down on abuse of its platform.

Today we removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.

"We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts - including who may be behind this", the company said in a statement, according to The Times.

Sandberg said on the call that Facebook wanted to disclose its findings on the coordinated campaign because of the timing of the event. In its blog post, Facebook warned that it faces "determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up" and who are "constantly changing tactics".

It said the account creators had gone to greater lengths to hide their identities than a Russia-based campaign to disrupt the U.S. presidential vote.

However, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement tying the latest Facebook activity directly to Russian Federation.

"I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future", said Warner, adding that he had received a briefing on the discoveries. The earliest was created in March of previous year, while the most recent was created this May.

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It said that the websites sought to "promote divisions and set Americans against one another", and used "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues". Additionally, the creators paid approximately $11,000 to run 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram.

"This page also previously had an IRA account as one of its admins for only seven minutes", Facebook said. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending.

"I definitely had concerns, because people don't usually invite me to accounts unless they know me", Orsinger said.

One fake page called "Resisters" was involved in co-ordinating a protest in Washington between August 10-12. Facebook discovered coordinated activity around issues such as a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Fake accounts contacted administrators of five other legitimate Facebook groups to help plan the counter-protest, including offering support for transportation and logistics, and posting ads to hire an event coordinator.

Facebook said it already shared the information about today's suspended accounts with U.S. law enforcement, Congress, other technology companies, and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, a research organization that helps Facebook identify and analyze abuse on its network.

"Today's announcement from Facebook demonstrates what we've long feared: that malicious foreign actors bearing the hallmarks of previously-identified Russian influence campaigns continue to abuse and weaponise social media platforms to influence the USA electorate", Schiff said.

This included using virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their location, and using third parties to run ads on their behalf.


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