has deleted dozens of pages and accounts that were apparently
coordinating to push divisive messages to the American public in the
lead-up to this year’s US midterm elections.
told 17 profiles and eight pages in all were chopped from Facebook along
with seven Instagram profiles.
social media giant said the accounts were responsible for nearly 10,000
posts and had spent $11,000 on 150 ads in the past year focused on
controversial social issues such as white supremacist marches and
Silicon Valley mega-bucks biz said it was not able to definitely
identify who was behind the coordinated campaign, but it did note that
the accounts followed the same pattern of behavior as a Russian
government misinformation campaign carried out in the 2016 presidential
elections – a campaign Facebook had failed to notice and initially
anyone can pretend to be a Russian on the internet, don’t forget.
size of this latest, and now shutdown, campaign is smaller than the 2016
effort – possibly because whoever was behind it
was testing the waters – and Facebook noted that the perpetrators has
hidden their identities by using VPNs and paying third parties to run
clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to
obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research
Agency (IRA) has in the past,” reads a blog
post by Facebook staff today. “We believe this
could be partly due to changes we’ve made over the last year to make
this kind of abuse much harder.”
second post by Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel
Gleicher, said the pages and accounts had been identified “about two
weeks ago” – around the same time that Gleicher was deflecting questions
about fake Facebook accounts – and gave examples of the ads and posts
that had been posted by the accounts.
kids are all white
included an event called “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” that was intended
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 US border.
as with the previous
Facebook ads bought by the Kremlin’s online
influencers, the goal was seemingly to divide America by pitching
citizens against immigrants, left against right, white against black,
and meddle with political discourse while derailing civility.
to Gleicher, “the most followed Facebook Pages were ‘Aztlan Warriors,’
‘Black Elevation,’ ‘Mindful Being,’ and ‘Resisters.’ The remaining Pages
had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero
total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages,
the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created
in May 2018,” he added.
discovered the accounts by “following up on thousands of leads,
including information from law enforcement and lessons we learned from
last year’s IRA investigation,” it said. It gave an example of one page
it identified because one of the people behind the earlier 2016 campaign
had been an admin of the page for just seven minutes.
obvious intent on Facebook’s part is to give a public demonstration that
it is doing everything it can to stop manipulation of its platform ahead
of the November elections. It brought in the FBI to investigate the
pages, and it briefed members of Congress on its findings earlier this
also wrote glowingly about itself. “Security is not something that’s
ever done. We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never
give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we
need to constantly improve too,” it puffed itself up in one of the three
posts on the issue.
why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to
prevent bad actors misusing Facebook – as well as working much more
closely with law enforcement and other tech companies to better
understand the threats we face.”
been publicly embarrassed and
then excoriated for
its failure to identify a massive misinformation campaign last time
around, Facebook has expanded its
security team, hiring several serious counterterrorism experts, and
introduced new rules included the requirement for political advertisers
to register with a US addresses.
is also placing political ads into a public
database (which, of course, you must login to
see) and claims to be using both artificial intelligence and human
reviewers to identify unusual or suspicious coordinated campaigning
announcement is intended to send the message that Facebook is on top of
the problem. Although, of course, we are still reliant on the social
media giant’s word. Given its long and extensive history of misleading
information, secrecy and a refusal to provide anything that doesn’t fit
with a pre-decided narrative, observers should feel justified in
maintaining a heavy dose of skepticism.