Facebook finds evidence of USA mid-term election interference

Facebook finds evidence of USA mid-term election interference

Facebook finds evidence of USA mid-term election interference

A Russian propaganda arm tried to tamper in the 2016 USA election by posting and buying ads on Facebook, according to the company and U.S. intelligence agencies. It says the latest attempt to launder charged political messages on the platform is much more sophisticated than previous interference.

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. Facebook disclosed its findings after the New York Times reported on them earlier Tuesday. "Yet we face determined, well-funded adversaries who won't give up and who are constantly changing tactics".

But members of Congress who had been briefed by Facebook on the matter said the methodology of the influence campaign suggested Russian involvement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, called the disclosure "further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation".

The company says it removed 32 accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in "coordinated" behavior and appeared to be fake. One of disabled IRA accounts shared a Facebook event hosted by the Resisters page. Among the most influential accounts nixed from the platform were "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation", "Mindful Being", and "Resisters", according to Facebook.

Facebook released the information on Tuesday because one of the suspended users - a previously identified IRA account - was listed as a co-administrator on an event scheduled next week in D.C., to protest a "Unite the Right" event.

Executives refused to say whether the suspicious accounts and pages primarily targeted Democratic or Republican voters, but several of the examples Facebook posted on its corporate website showed anti-Trump ads or those aimed at progressive causes.

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According to the DFRL, it's reasonable to conclude that some of the fake accounts were Russian in origin.

"Legitimate pages helped build interest in 'No Unite the Right 2, '" said Gleicher, noting pages posted information about transportation so people could attend the demonstration. Facebook canceled the counter-march and notified the other administrators about the activity.

Facebook said it already shared the information about today's suspended accounts with U.S. 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. They also organized about 30 events, only two of which were slated for the future.

Other accounts and pages targeted sensitive issues like immigration, including at least one page involved in organizing an "Abolish ICE".

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.

The 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 ads. They paid third parties to spend approximately $11,000 (in U.S. and Canadian dollars) for around 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram.

But it did find one link between the IRA and the new accounts. $11,000 in ads? That is practically zero, by Facebook standards. "Thing are still very early so we're continuing to work on that", Mr. Gleicher said.

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