Facebook Shuts Down Accounts Trying To Influence Midterm US Elections

Mark Zuckerberg

While the platform has not confirmed this new raft of fake pages was operated by Russian operatives, it did say their broad pattern of behaviour matched the manoeuvres of the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency - the operation accused of injecting troubling content into Facebook before the 2016 election.

Facebook A protest in Washington, D.C., scheduled to August 10-12 was organized by the "Resisters" Facebook page, which Facebook says was involved in "coordinated inauthentic activity".

So, too, does the new undertaking; the new batch of most popular pages include "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters".

Facebook says the pages ran about 150 ads for $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in USA and Canadian dollars. They were paid for in American and Canadian dollars. The first ad was created in April 2017, and the last was created in June 2018.

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Among the techniques used to cover their trails were virtual private networks, and internet phone services. Admins for the page connected with the admins of five legitimate pages to promote the event and post logistical information for protesters.

The FBI was working with the company to investigate the fraudulent accounts, which tried to sow disinformation on divisive social issues.

Facebook discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year's deadly "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

More than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages and that about US$11,000 (S$15,000) had been spent on about 150 ads, Facebook said.

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"Facebook said the "Resisters" page, which organized the "No Unite the Right 2" event, recruited real activists who "unwittingly helped build interest in" the event" and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests".

Citing unnamed sources, The New York Times reported that other "coordinated" activity revolved around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

"Any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy and it will not be allowed", Pence said at a cybersecurity summit in NY late on July 31.

"We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts - including who may be behind this", Facebook said in a series of blog posts.

Some accounts had connections to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) - the Russian-based group that interfered with the 2016 presidential election. The company has expanded its security team, hiring counterterrorism experts and recruiting workers with government security clearances.

The company is using artificial intelligence and teams of human reviewers to detect automated accounts and suspicious election-related activity.

The panel's chairman, Republican Senator Richard Burr, said he was glad to see Facebook take a "much-needed step toward limiting the use of their platform by foreign influence campaigns".

Facebook has been grappling with continuing public backlash for being slow to recognise Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election, along with widespread concerns over its past data-sharing practices.

"We are continually looking for that type of activity, and as and when we find things, which we think is inevitable, we'll notify law enforcement, and where we can, the public".