Facebook finds 'sophisticated' efforts to disrupt USA midterm elections

Thursday, 02 Aug, 2018

Facebook announced today that it has removed 32 accounts that it believes were fraudulently attempting to use divisive politics to influence the midterm elections.

Facebook said the perpetrators this year were "more careful to cover their tracks" than those it found trying to influence the 2016 election, in part because of steps it has taken to prevent a recurrence of the 2016 abuses.

In briefings on Capitol Hill, Facebook has told lawmakers that it suspects a Russian group is behind more than 30 pages advocating USA political stances, according to a congressional source briefed on the matter.

The new disclosure underscores the increasing difficulty of distinguishing real political discourse from content meant specifically to create dissension among Americans, even as Facebook invests heavily in systems to spot and take down such posts.

The coordinated inauthentic activity that Facebook revealed on Tuesday shows that bad actors are determined to influence US politics, sow division and set Americans against each other-regardless of whether they use conservatism or liberalism as conduits.

The Atlantic Council said the Resisters page, which advocated left-wing feminist causes, raised alarms because it was pushing for confrontation at multiple protests, including against supporters of the right-wing "Unite the Right 2" group, raising the potential for violence.

Facebook stopped short of saying the effort was aimed at influencing the US midterm elections in November, although the timing of the suspicious activity would be consistent with such an attempt.

US intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning for months that Russia's efforts to undermine USA democracy remain active and pose a threat to this year's elections.

Mr. Mueller's indictment of a dozen Russians last month provided another thread, according to Facebook.

Black Lives Matters DC didn't immediately respond to a request for more information about the event and its accompanying Facebook page.

Counterfeit administrators from a fake page called "Resisters" connected with five legitimate Facebook pages to build interest and share logistical information for counterprotests, Facebook said.

Facebook warns new political influence possibly linked to Russian Federation.

The social media company that it couldn't tie the activity to Russian Federation, which interfered on its platform around the 2016 presidential election.

Russian Federation was found to have used Facebook to meddle in the 2016 USA presidential election - notably through a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency - but Facebook is not explicitly linking the new efforts to Russian Federation. Additionally, the creators paid approximately $11,000 to run 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram. In its blog post, Facebook warned that it faces "determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up" and who are "constantly changing tactics".

Facebook says it is still in early stages of an investigation and is sharing information with USA law enforcement and Congress.

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. It's an arms race and we need to constantly improve too. "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".