Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Facebook suspends accounts engaged in 'inauthentic' political activity

Facebook suspends accounts engaged in 'inauthentic' political activity

"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".

The removed pages had more than 290,000 followers, the company said.

When details of the Russian social media trolling attempt to influence the 2016 election came out, Reason's Jacob Sullum looked it over and questioned how much impact it actually had.

They included an event called "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" that was meant to act as a counter-protest to a white nationalist gathering next month, and posts based around the hashtag #AbolishICE - a campaign to scrap the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency over its controversial policy of separating children from their parents at the United States border.

According to The New York Times, which first reported the news, these accounts have engaged in a "coordinated political influence campaign".

The intelligence panel is planning a hearing in early September with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, and an executive from Google.

Their statement reads: "We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics".

Facebook officials on a call with reporters said that 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.

That effort had generated some support, with Facebook saying "we disabled the event earlier today", and that it would now set about "informing the approximately 2,600 users interested in the event, and the more than 600 users who'd said they'd attend, about what happened".

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During the midterms all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested.

The company is working with the investigate the activity.

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

Some of those fake accounts included pages like "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters".

In total the accounts had 9,500 posts, all but one of them on Facebook, the other on Instagram. The event was called "No Unite the Right 2 - DC", seemingly billing itself as a counter-protest against the deadly far-right protests in Charlottesville one year ago. Explaining the removal of pages from its platform, the Facebook said that they won't allow this kind of behaviour as they don't want any organisation, people to create a network of accounts which could mislead people.

According to preliminary results of its investigation, Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said these accounts had been created between March 2017 and May 2018. The movement to get rid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency tasked with deporting undocumented immigrants, has become a rallying cry for some Democrats.

The organisers behind the accounts went to great lengths to hide their identities including using virtual private networks - software that masks the geographic location of computers - and Internet-based phone numbers, company officials said. For example, they used virtual private networks (VPNs) and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf.

Facebook said the entities behind the accounts ran about 150 ads for about $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for with USA and Canadian currency.

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.

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