Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Facebook Has IDed Ongoing Political Influence Campaign In Midterms

Facebook Has IDed Ongoing Political Influence Campaign In Midterms

Facebook said it has found some links between the accounts it removed and the accounts created by Russia's Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 US presidential elections.

A Russian propaganda arm tried to tamper in the 2016 US election by posting and buying ads on Facebook, according to the company and USA intelligence agencies. It says the latest attempt to launder charged political messages on the platform is much more sophisticated than previous interference.

The company removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram "because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior", the company said in a statement.

"We've made it harder for inauthentic actors to operate on Facebook", said Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

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

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Facebook's discovery showed that more work is needed to guard against foreign interference in the upcoming elections.

The coordinated inauthentic activity that Facebook revealed on Tuesday shows that bad actors are determined to influence USA politics, sow division and set Americans against each other-regardless of whether they use conservatism or liberalism as conduits. A previous event a year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to violence by white supremacists.

The pages were deeply rooted in divisive topics, like the #AbolishICE campaign to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a page called Resisters that had interacted with an IRA account and a page planning another Unite the Right white supremacist rally like the one that occurred in Charlottesville, Va.in August 2017. CNN reported Tuesday afternoon that Facebook expressed stronger suspicions of Russian Federation during private briefings with members of Congress.

Facebook says the pages ran about 150 ads for $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in USA and Canadian dollars.

Updated 4:02 pm ET with new information regarding a potential Russian connection to the accounts and pages Facebook removed.

The dates for 30 other events created by the banned users had already passed, but the company said it was not yet in a position to give color on the content.

Fake accounts contacted administrators of five other legitimate Facebook groups to help plan the counterprotest, including offering support for transportation and logistics, and posting ads to hire an event co-ordinator. The policy is in place because, the statement continued, "we don't want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing". Facebook's Gleicher said some of the administrators of the event page for the counter-protest were real accounts, and that the company had notified the people running the real accounts that it was taking down the event page. 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.

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.

He cautioned, "But there are differences, too".

This is consistent with Russian propaganda on Facebook during the 2016 election, which included both pro-Trump and anti-Trump activity. After being caught flat-footed by the IRA's efforts ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has expanded its security team, hired counterterrorism experts and recruited workers with government security clearances.

The company has also announced new guidelines around political advertisements, requiring disclosure of who paid for them and keeping a database of political advertisers.

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