Facebook finds 'sophisticated' efforts to disrupt elections

Facebook said Tuesday it shut down more than 30 fake pages and accounts involved in what appeared to be a "coordinated" effort to stoke hot-button social issues ahead of November midterm USA elections, but can not identify the source despite hints Russian Federation was involved.

"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.

The pages identified as "inauthentic" were all of the far left.

The bogus material appeared on the social media platforms between March 2017 and May 2018, Facebook said, and combined the fake actors had racked up 290,000 accounts that followed them.

Facebook has been grappling with continuing public backlash for being slow to recognise Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, along with widespread concerns over its past data-sharing practices. Ben Sasse said. "Russia and China understand that successful information operations don't create new problems but exploit existing fissures - that's why Moscow is working to divide Americans by stoking both sides of almost every culture war".

President Donald Trump has offered mixed messages on Russian interference, at times even calling it a "hoax". "We disabled the event and reached out to the legitimate administrators of five other pages to let them know what's happened". The participants include the "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters" pages.

Facebook said that the individuals running the pages also took efforts to cover their tracks. Facebook said it had disabled the event and was in the process of contacting almost 2,600 people who had said they were interested in attending.

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).

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Facebook officials on a call with reporters said one known account from Russia's Internet Research Agency was a co-administrator of one of the fake pages for seven minutes, but the company did not believe that was enough evidence to attribute the campaign to the Russian government.

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.

Gleicher says these threat actors used VPNs and internet phone services to hide their location following Facebook's crackdown on IRA and other fake accounts in recent months.

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

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

Among the new accounts were one called "Resisters" which promoted a fake anti-right wing protest in August in Washington D.C. It called the entities behind the pages "determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics". Additionally, the creators paid approximately $11,000 to run 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook, however, admitted in a blog post that it was in the "very early stages" of its investigation and didn't have "all the facts" about the newly discovered accounts.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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