Facebook Has IDed Ongoing Political Influence Campaign In Midterms

Saul Bowman
August 2, 2018

It described attempts to erase election interference as an "arms race".

Meanwhile, besides this, Facebook in an official information informed that they have removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram as they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. In total, they ran about $11,000 worth of ads, made more than 9,500 posts, and reached an audience of 290,000 accounts. Facebook said that anyone found to have followed one of the fraudulent pages or events has been alerted.

The accounts sent $11,000 to run 150 ads on both Facebook and Instagram between April 2017 and June of this year, paid for in US and Canadian dollars.

Why can't Facebook be sure who is responsible?

The "bad actors" went to far greater lengths to cover their tracks than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) had in the past, Facebook said. For example, they used virtual private networks (VPNs) and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf. But the social network did point out some connections.

The company's announcement comes after it has faced congressional questioning this year about whether it has marginalized conservative voices or allowed nutty sites to exist, and in the wake of last week's huge market drop in the share price following Facebook's announcement the pace of new accounts opening had slackened.

Facebook said it found about 30 real-world events linked to the fake pages since May 2017.

Stamos confirmed that pages also played into immigration issues with references to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

One fake page called "Resisters" was involved in coordinating a protest in Washington D.C. on August 10-12.

"The relationship between malicious actors and real-world sponsors can be hard to determine in practice, especially for the activity sponsored by nation-states, " Facebook's Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos said.

What is the company doing about it?

Facebook said it already shared the information about today's suspended accounts with United States 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.

Facebook said it's working with law enforcement to investigate the campaign.

Facebook said it will work with law enforcement to understand where these pages came from and will continue to monitor its platform.

How have USA politicians reacted?

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, arrives to testify at a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, in April 10.

Added Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, "Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation".

The company said it had briefed US law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, other tech firms and members of Congress on its findings.

IRA is accused by Facebook and the US Department of Justice of having played a key role in the campaign of hoaxes and fake news on controversial and divisive issues created to try to influence the 2016 election in which Donald Trump won the White House.

But he has since apologised for being so dismissive.

After it became clear that Russia-linked actors used social media to try to influence the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook has escalated countermeasures meant to prevent a repeat.

The tech giant did say "some of the activity is consistent" with that of the Internet Research Agency - the Russian troll farm that managed many false Facebook accounts used to influence the 2016 vote.

President Putin has, however, denied that Russian meddled.

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